In the streets of Portau-Prince, the capital of Haiti, armed members of the disbanded military move around in cars and engage in target practice by shooting down children on the streets of the city. When the Ethiopian police round up children and leave them deep inside forests at the mercy of hyenas and other wild animals, the weak are never able to return to human habitation. These children are paying the price of being ‘street children’. From Street to Hope opens with a broad canvas view of the plight of children living on the streets of the world’s cities. Dabir and Athale take the reader through the findings of a study of organizations working towards the rehabilitation of street children in three cities spanning three continents—Los Angeles, Mumbai and Nairobi. Though the study itself is dealt with in the penultimate chapter of the book, the authors make a careful movement from the macro view to the minute details of the organizations which were studied as part of the survey. The initial chapters prepare the reader and help put in perspective the analysis of the research results.
The three city study itself was conducted by the Urban Initiative, University of Southern California, partnered by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai and the Institute for the Study of African Realities, Nairobi. In a context in which the world is rapidly urbanizing the exponential influx and rise in the number of children who are left to fend for themselves, often in hostile environment is a matter of grave concern. One may argue that the strategy of comparing the conditions of street children in cities which have vast social, political and historical differences is likely to throw up untenable conclusions. Yet, I would argue that the diversity of choice allows for a critical look at the global dimensions of the condition of street children—not all of which may have been discussed in the book.
As the authors explain, other than updating the study for the book, they undertook the task of surveying literature and statistical records on the condition of street children across the world. This I feel forms a most valuable addition to the book. The chapter aptly titled ‘From Definitional to Real’ engages in the very difficult task of sifting through the multifarious reasons that push children out of their homes, away from their families to the vulnerability ...
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