In Pakistan, there are 1.5 million children living on the streets – a number that is both likely to be a conservative estimate, and one that is rapidly increasing due to poverty, frequent natural disasters and hardship. Children living on the streets anywhere and everywhere are denied of their basic rights to education, health, shelter, protection and care. They are not being raised with the love, care and safety of family or guardians, that every child should experience. Many have been abandoned by their parents or are escaping violence at home, but some come from families that are so vulnerable and impoverished that they’ve been forced onto the street to beg to put food on the table.
Muslim Charity has been working in Pakistan since 1999, and is committed to helping children live a life away from the horrors of the street, with safe shelter, healthcare, and education. We are one of few charities for street children operating in Pakistan.
Watch this film on the fantastic work we are doing with vulnerable street children in Pakistan:
Rescuing street children
In Pakistan, we are running centres for street children, where we seek to offer long-term safety and solutions to their problems on the streets. While it sounds simple, it is actually not so easy to bring children to safety. Life on the streets have made many children afraid, suspicious and even more wary, so gaining their trust is a slow process that requires patience and gentleness. Only once we have gained the trust of the children, do they begin to share their stories, and we can slowly move towards moving them to a shelter. Like many charities for street children, we have developed robust mechanisms and projects to support vulnerable children.
There are legal issues to understand and consider when moving a child to a shelter, and all admissions into a centre must be recorded officially by the police. While this step is important, it can be intimidating for children, and so our team deal with this patiently and appropriately.
Once living in the shelter, children are provided with counselling, and take part in sessions learning about their rights and self-protection. We are also able to offer them education and to build their skills.
The dark side of life
Many children on the street are living in terrible conditions, and as a means of coping with their suffering have become addicted to drugs. Many children living on the street have been subject to abuse, sexual abuse, torture and violence. Drugs, for many, is a way to numb the pain and to be able to move from day to day. Some have fallen into the habit and addiction due to the dark and dangerous circles they operate in. However, an addiction to drugs is holding these children back, and bringing their lives into even more danger.
Muslim Charity is working with children on rehabilitation. We enrol children onto a programme of detoxification and rehabilitation to help break their addiction. This includes medical intervention and counselling. While dealing with the addiction, we also work with children for them to understand their own rights, and learn how to defend and protect themselves.
This process of rehabilitation is raw, challenging and difficult. It is incredibly hard for children as withdrawal symptoms are harsh and painful, and the children lose the crutch they have been holding onto. However, we are committed to helping children lead lives that are free of toxins, pain, suffering and abuse.
In our film, our Programmes Director, Irfan Rajput, and our Pakistan Programmes Coordinator, Zubair Shah, talk about the details of this work and why it is so important for children. Watch here to see the great impact that charities for street children are having.
Children of brothels
Muslim Charity also works with another group of vulnerable children who are side-lined in society – the children of sex workers, living in brothels. The sex working industry is one of the darkest industries in Pakistan, and around the world, where women are often manipulated, abused and are not offered protection or security. Along with the issues of health, safety and dignity, women and their children are also rejected from society, which creates further divides and affects their access of nutritious food, education, healthcare and overall safety.
Many women caught up in the sex working trade are doing so out of compulsion or as the only resort to tackle poverty and debt. However, they wish for a brighter future for their children, away from the threats and suffering in the brothels. Girls, in particular, are at threat, and so Muslim Charity is committed to offering these children safety and a future that is safe and full of possibilities.
Find out more here and support charities for street children today.
What does Islam say?
Islam teaches us values of compassion, care, empathy and brotherhood. Children are extremely precious and deserve to have childhoods that are happy, safe and a place for them to thrive.
Prophet Muhammad (saw) said: “Whoever does not show mercy to our young ones, or acknowledge the rights of our elders, is not one of us.” (Ahmad)
Furthermore, a man once saw Prophet Muhammad (saw) kissing his grandson Hasan, and he said, “I have ten children, but I have never kissed any one of them”. Prophet Muhammad (saw) said in response, “He who does not show mercy (towards children), no mercy would be shown to him.” (Sahih Muslim)
Find out more about our work here and donate today to help rescue a street child by clicking here.