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Local group on mission to rescue street children

By VERDEL BISHOP Monday, December 22 2008

STREET CHILDREN are often beaten, scorned and neglected and are looked upon as nuisances. They are prone to sexual abuse, infections, and drug addictions and although it may seem like no one cares, Operation Rescue Street Children (ORST) is on a mission to save these youngsters.

ORST is a group of individuals with an abundance of goodwill and understanding for street children who are willing to go the extra mile to ensure that children who roam the streets without food and shelter are taken care of. Jennifer Jerome, Chairman of ORST, explained, “The issue of street children is a major concern for ORST and it should be a concern for the general public as well. The number of children on the streets is increasing and no one is noticing, therefore no one is doing anything about it.

“ORST is a project developed to get these children off the streets and into an institution that will provide for them, where they will be supervised, loved and respected and most importantly where they are kept away from the harshness of street life,” Jerome explained.

“Public perceptions of street children is ridiculous. There are some people that never consider how these children, as young as seven and eight years old, are left on the streets. It is of no fault of theirs.

“We have heard so many horror stories from street children. Some of them come from abused institutions, entrusted by the state to care for them, yet these same institutions abuse them, sexually, verbally, mentally and physically. We hear so many stories . . . stories which we are sure go uninvestigated.”

Also disgusted with the growing number of street children is president of ORST, Boodoosingh Dwarika, who said government is not doing enough to solve the problem.

“There are many ways that children come to be living on the streets. Some children end up on the street because they have been orphaned or abandoned by their parents. A street child needs to be rescued from the dangers of life in the street, but not enough is being done.

“We should do more to protect these children. Government should also do more. What people must understand is that these children are at risk of sexual abuse and exposed to sexually transmitted infections, which is fuelling the HIV / AIDS crisis. There are so many of these children that are infected with HIV/AIDS.

“We need to have a permanent place to put these children so they can be fed, counselled and nurtured. Most homes and institutions take them in but send them back out on the streets at the age of 16. We don’t need those kind of homes because they are not helping the situation,” he added.

Dwarika said the growing number of street children is also fuelling the crime situation. He said with the absence of love, such children are vulnerable to all sorts of deviant behaviour, such as theft, drug addiction and prostitution.

“What also happens is that these children become numbed to all the violence they experience, and become violent themselves. They get angry and begin to commit crimes. The girls end up in prostitution and the boys are drafted into gangs,” Dwarika said.

“Why should this continue? ORST is trying to help these children in any way possible but we can’t do it alone. These children can succeed, but we must be prepared to help them. We must provide opportunities for them. We must begin by investigating why institutions that are entrusted to care for these children, abuse and neglect them,” he said.

Dwarika said for ORST to function effectively, a lot of work needs to be done. He explained that the organisation is in dire need of a permanent home.

“We need a building where we can function effectively, we need volunteers and we also need funding,” he said.

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