Walking in the footsteps of India’s street kids

June 15, 2016 G Adventures

Born and bred in Melbourne, Lauren Phillips has spent a fair bit of her career packing and unpacking her bags. After landing a presenting role on Postcards, Channel Nine’s popular travel program, in 2008, Lauren then took up with Getaway, Australia's longest-running travel and lifestyle television show.

In 2015, Lauren travelled to India, where she had the opportunity to visit the New Delhi Streetkids Project, one of more than 25 self-sustaining G Adventures for Good initiatives integrated into more than 100 itineraries. These projects address local challenges, providing benefits for indigenous people, empowering marginalized women, and granting disadvantaged youth access to education, employment, and brighter futures.

One of the most incredible experiences I had in India was meeting Ajay, or Max as he likes to be called. He met us at our hotel, where we learned he would be showing us around Delhi’s infamous slums. The idea was a little daunting and very confronting; however, the experience was something that captured a piece of my heart and will always stay with me.

One of the most incredible experiences I had in India was meeting Ajay, or Max as he likes to be called.

Through G Adventures’ partnership with Delhi’s Salaam Baalak Trust, scholarships are made available to young people like Max who once lived and worked on the streets of Delhi. By funding vocational training in trade schools and universities, and providing job opportunities, G Adventures seeks to break the cycle of poverty and give these children the promise of a brighter future.

Max showed us around the inner city streets of Paharganj, the New Delhi railway station, and the Old City where he and tens of thousands of kids just like him grew up. Max was an incredible guide — he offered us a unique way to see a side of India we might otherwise have missed. At the same time, guiding provides on-the-job training for young people like Max to improve their communication and speaking skills.

He explained to us what life was like as a kid on the streets. He and his mates proved resourceful, always discovering new ways of making money to support one another. They called themselves “little entrepreneurs.”

Max took us to meet Delhi’s locals, many of whom had very few possessions but a lifetime of stories — and smiles that lit up the darkness! We sat on the street, drinking freshly brewed chai tea and shared stories and exchanged smiles into the evening. After all, they were just as interested in our lives as we were in theirs.

Our freshly brewed cups of chai tea was made all the more meaningful by this experience.

Our freshly brewed cups of chai tea was made all the more meaningful by this experience.

It was then I learned the heartbreaking story of how Max fell in with the Salaam Baalak Trust. When he was five years old, he was separated from his family during a large festival near the slums where he lived. Lost in the crowd, Max was unable to find his parents — and never saw them again. Thus began his life on the streets. To make a living, he scavenged for discarded water bottles, filled them up with water, and sold them to locals at the train station. Eventually, he was taken in; however, subject to abuse, he ran away when he was eight. At age 10, he travelled to Delhi, where he turned to pickpocketing.

Life goes on at the train station in Delhi.

Life goes on at the train station in Delhi.

In Delhi, he was taken in by Salaam Baalak Trust and was offered a safe place to stay. Today, as a tour guide, Max provides incredible insight into what life is like as a child on the streets in India. He is an incredible young man with a smile that could light up the world and a bright future to match. Max is studying to be a journalist and one day wants to work for CNN.

It’s estimated that 400,000 children live and work on the streets of Delhi. In most cases, their families are too poor to provide for them, they have run away from abusive home environments, or they are orphans. On our tour of Delhi, we met a number of young boys like Max, many of them facing the same future. But thanks to the incredible work of Salaam Baalak Trust and the support of G Adventures, they all have bright futures ahead of them.

Being involved in these tours gives children a chance at a bright future.

Being involved in these tours gives children a chance at a bright future.

The G Adventures for Good New Delhi Streetkids Project supports more than 5,000 homeless children through strategically placed contact points and shelters. These youth centres provide clothing, food, healthcare, education, counselling, recreational activities, job skills training, and job placements.

Max's stories and insight showed us an incredible side to India that we never would have experienced sitting by a pool in a five-star hotel. He showed us an honest, harsh, and yet somehow incredibly beautiful side to India.

And it’s something I will never forget.

Getting There

G Adventures runs a number of departures in India encompassing a wide range of departure dates and activities to cater to different tastes. We’re thrilled at the prospect of showing you this big blue planet of ours — check out our small group trips here.

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