Barka was on a path to drug abuse and neglect until his mother (above) allowed him to register at a Compassion center. Now he speaks up for those lost on the same path he once was on.
By the time he was 6, Barka was picking pockets and using drugs. This child's history illuminates the harsh reality of scores of children caught up in poverty and neglect. It also tells of the miraculous transformation that occurs when God intervenes.
Today, seven years later, Barka is a 13-year-old leader-in-the-making at St. Gabriel's Hostel in Canning, a Compassion-assisted child development center in India that opened in 2003.
Barka aspires to one day stand by poor, neglected and abused children and keep them from falling into the same things he fell into as a young child in Kolkata.
Barka was 3 when he moved to Kolkata from Midnapore, his parents' ancestral home. The family spent the next five years living on a railroad platform. "We used to sleep on the platform with a single mattress, and during winters it was very difficult as there was no covering at night," Barka recalls.
A Path of Brokenness
At first, Barka's mother brought him along everywhere she went. But as he got older and his parents began working two jobs each, they began leaving him home alone. He gradually became entangled with a group of pickpockets and found himself deep into their trade of stealing and taking drugs.
One day he was caught stealing and was beaten up. The railway protection force police locked him up in a cell for two hours until his mother could come plead for his release.
During this time, there was a man whom children at the railway platform used to fondly call "Uncle Sudip." After Barka's jail visit, he intervened in the family's crisis by telling them of a place where their son could study, eat good food and be safe. Sudip Bose's mission was rehabilitating kids living on platforms and street corners. His friend, the Rev. David Roy, happened to be the pastor and director of St. Gabriel's Hostel. With his parents' consent, Barka was registered there in May 2005, receiving all the benefits of a Child Sponsorship Program child.
Transformed by Love
It wasn't an easy transition. "Having lived on the railway platform and streets of Kolkata, Barka's life was completely reckless," says the Rev. Roy. But after a few years of personal counseling and constant, unconditional love from the staff at the child development center, today Barka is a new person with a hopeful future.
This former drug user now takes the lead in the Anti-Drug Rally that the center conducts every year. He shows love and concern for the other children he once picked fights with. He has become well-mannered and respectful and is one of the best students in the center, be it in sports, leading devotions, academics, or behaviorally.
Barka leads the morning and evening devotions of his group and has developed a habit for prayer that he says he could never do before.
He prays down on his knees for his parents and for children like him who are abused and trapped in gangs due to neglect and poverty. Barka feels that prayer has contributed to his changed life. Young children and many of his own friends look up to him for inspiration, knowing the background he came from and seeing the change in him.
"His change is a real miracle," says one of the staff at the center. "We never thought a boy from such a background could turn out to be a jewel of the project."
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