The Rainbow Centre began working with street children in 2005 after its founder, Alison Nagle, who survived the tsunami while on holiday with her family, stayed on to provide disaster relief work, only to discover that there were children living on the street in greater need. These children were abused, abandoned and forced to beg to survive, often funding absent parents’ drug addictions. Undernourished, barefoot, covered in greasy dirt, suffering from feeling cold and hungry, they endured an abysmal existence. All this was made worse because they lived without any hope that their lives could change.
The Rainbow Centre’s aim is to break the devastating cycle of poverty that would otherwise trap the poorest children in the cruel world they were born into.
The children were brought together and asked what they wanted the most. All of them said that they wanted to go to school and be like ‘normal’ children. So, in December 2005, the Rainbow Centre School and welfare centre opened and the children gradually began to thrive.
During the past sixteen years, the Rainbow Centre has enabled hundreds of children to enter mainstream education followed up with intensive support with their studies and health at the Rainbow Centre’s School. The impact of this work has been transformative. Working with children who have a history of trauma and who have often not experienced any stable, loving relationships requires a special response. The Rainbow Centre is guided by an ethos of compassion and love to ensure that every single child is able to flourish and to know that they are of value. This is so important as discrimination against poverty and the low caste meant that they were often told that they were thieves and dirty animals.
Education is everything to a child that knows nothing about a world beyond the slums.
Children who come to the Rainbow Centre experience appalling deprivation, frequent episodes of homelessness, constant hunger, neglect and abuse. Few have access to clean water, toilets, showers and electricity. Others live in flood-prone, overcrowded, one-room shacks surrounded by polluted water.
The Rainbow Centre provides all of the children with two nutritious meals a day and healthy snacks. Families unable to afford the spiralling cost of basic food are given dry rations, medicine and assisted access to hospitals and healthcare.
The Rainbow Centre is an oasis full of happy children who love being there. It operates out of its own secure premises surrounded by a large garden where the children can study, play, do sport, run wild and explore their creativity. The Centre runs a nursery, pre-school, junior school and senior school with students ranging in age from one to 19 years old. All of the children are transported from their slum dwellings to school, to the Centre and back to home in the Centre’s own bus.
‘You find children flying into our offices at all times just to say hi and give us a hug or tell us what happened in school that day. The staff are also so responsive to this, and now respond back with interest and love. There is a sense of freedom for everyone but with much needed respect for each other and discipline.’ CEO, Shevi Balasuria.