After you’ve had a really bad day, it takes a hot, wholesome meal to make your tummy happy, which in turn makes you happy and let’s you have a good night’s sleep so you are refreshed and ready to take on new challenges the next day.
Wholesome meals are so important — obviously you need nutritious food to keep your body healthy, but when you have someone to eat with, discuss your day, your feelings and your life, the meal becomes worth so much more.
With this thought, Bombay Teen Challenge (BTC), a registered charitable trust, has been feeding destitute men, women, and children in the city of Mumbai on a daily basis for the past decade and a half via a mobile feeding truck. After their old feeding van completely broke down and was in no shape for repair, they got a new one to carry on this good work.
The inauguration of the new mobile feeding van was done by a group of boys who once walked up to the feeding truck and sat down for a meal with one of the volunteers. With the help of the charitable trust, these boys were rehabilitated, and are now working and earning enough to support themselves. The inauguration took place at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus on January 9 and henceforth it will halt five days a week during lunch time, around 1.30 pm.
“We have been working for street children for the last 27 years, but have only been running the feeding truck for 15 years now. While distributing food on the truck, we come across boys who are addicted to drugs and alcohol, or other kinds of substance abuse. We talk to them over their meal, befriend them and get to know their background — whether they have run away from home, or are orphans with no one to look after them — and take them to our rehabilitation centre in Badlapur. If we come across minors or female children, we get in touch with the Ministry of Women and Child Development. We take the addicts through a programme and make sure they complete their education, get through college and help them get a job,” says K K Devaraj from Bombay Teen Challenge.
Bonding over food is a tried and tested way of creating a comfort zone where one can gain the confidence of the street kids and spark a conversation. “The feeding truck has tables and chairs inside, so we can sit in peace and talk too. If we find out that the children are runaways, we motivate them to go back to their home, otherwise we urge them to come with us to the rehabilitation centre to detox and then go to our home to study and live. Some kids also require medical attention, but they can’t just walk in to a hospital. So we have a medical van that comes in and is parked near the feeding truck. We get doctors to volunteer and give the street kids the medical help they need,” says Devaraj.
There are 76 boys in the home of the charitable trust presently. They have been through a reintegration programme and then sent to a placement assistance department which helps them land a job.
Currently, this team of the charity trust that works towards rehabilitating kids addicted to substance abuse has around 12 volunteers, but they are always looking to expand their team and invite people to come and join them to give back to society.
The food is cooked by the BTC staff and volunteers at Nagpada, just opposite the police chowki. “They make dal, rice, and a curry and some vegetable preparations, but this changes on a daily basis. We try to give different varieties every day,” says Devaraj.
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People interested in donating towards this charity can visit their website, btcashagram.org, and those who want to volunteer with Bombay Teen Challenge can call on 98200 81855, 98201 95424.