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India Currents gave me a voice in days I was very lost. Having my articles selected for publishing was very validating – Shailaja Dixit, Executive Director, Narika, Fremont

CRY raises funding for Project Sanlaap

“Children are very powerful agents of change. They inspire other children and community members. One of the projects that we support is Project Sanlaap via before and after school programs for children of sex workers in three red light districts in Calcutta,” said Patrick Bocco, Director of Fundraising at the annual Bay Area Chapter of Child Rights and You (CRY) America, fundraiser themed  “You Put the Y in CRY,” on Saturday, May 13 evening at Testarossa Winery, in Los Gatos.

The picture shows a man speaking onstage in front of a poster of CRY
Patrick Bocco, Director of Fundraising, CRY America (image courtesy: Sameer Yagnik, CRY)

“These programs, including soccer camps, not only help keep children away from sex work, drugs, abuse, and trafficking but also teach children self-confidence and communication,” added Bocco.

He spoke about the four pillars of CRY’s work in education; health and nutrition; safety and protection; and child participation via partnerships with various agencies in India. 

On health and nutrition efforts, Bocco mentioned CRY programs where families with limited means are taught how to grow fruits and vegetables, pre and postnatal care for pregnant women, treatments for malnourished children, and addressing psychosocial issues like depression, bullying, and good touch-bad touch in children.

Child Rights and You (CRY) America is a US nonprofit supporting projects in India and the US to ensure access to education and healthcare for underprivileged children, and protection from child labor, early marriage, and trafficking. 

Since 2004, with the support of over 25,000 donors and over 2,000 volunteers, CRY America has impacted the lives of 752,172 children living across 4027 villages and slums through support to 90 projects in India and the US.

Challenges in red light districts

CRY’s project partners in India, Shauvik Da and Kishan, a beneficiary of Sanlapp’s work in Calcutta joined virtually.

Shauvik spoke candidly about the challenges that filled the lives of children in the red light areas. “There is a lot of stigma and exploitation. Many children drop out of school and pick up different kinds of child labor. Girls get married early, run away or end up in prostitution. Substance abuse is also rampant as is trafficking from other parts of the state, other Indian states, and countries like Nepal.” 

He elaborated on the added difficulties in the lives of sex workers and their children due to the Covid pandemic as children had no school to go to and lost touch with education. When the schools reopened, the children refused to go back as they had lost touch with their school routines and studies. 

Only via incentives like soccer clinics have some children have been enticed back to school and to pre and post-school rescue shelters. 

He and project beneficiary and youth coordinator Kishan emphasized the importance of role models from within the community that inspire children towards a better life.

Children’s rescue center in Calcutta

Arti Kulkarni, a 20-year benefactor to CRY spoke passionately about her visit to a Sanlaap-run rescue center in Calcutta that houses around 120 children. 

“Rescuing children from red light districts and clutches of trafficking is very challenging. Trafficking is a very well-funded industry. People working to rescue children take on personal risks. Following a successful rescue, there are mental health and rehabilitation concerns for the children. For older children-a means to earn a livelihood to prevent being lured back to their past life of prostitution or drug trafficking is very important”

She mentioned that thematic focus and being able to see the sustainable impact of the project in action were the main reasons for her and her husband to support the Sanlaap project of CRY.

Bollywood actress Neelam headlines CRY Gala

Neelam Kothari Soni, a Bollywood actress starring in movies of the 1980s and ‘90s, headlined the event.

“I am honored and privileged to be associated with CRY. When it comes to children, one is willing to do anything,” said Neelam. 

“My mom has been donating to CRY for the last 25 years. Over the years I have heard of the good work CRY does, especially when it comes to ensuring that children can complete their education. Education and nutrition for a better tomorrow are every child’s rights. It ensures a brighter future not only for the child but also for our country and our world,” said Neelam.

The picture shows a woman, the actress Neelam Kothari, standing on a stage in front of a CRY poster
Neelam Kothari headlined the CRY Bay Area Annual Gala (image courtesy: Sameer Yagnik, CRY)
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Shalini Kathuria Narang

Shalini Kathuria Narang is a Silicon Valley based software professional and freelance journalist. She has written and published extensively for several national and international newspapers, magazines...