SKCV is a registered charitable trust that takes care of children who have no other
place to go to, with the intention to give them a meaningful future. Such a future
starts with building up confidence, self-appreciation and the gradual development
of inborn talents. It requires both a loving, friendly, open environment and a well-structured
daily life - with a clear time schedules, rules etc. SKCV attempts to create and
maintain exactly such a well-balanced environment . In addition to shelter and food,
it offers vocational training, education, health care, personal guidance, and time
and space for recreation. The ultimate aim is to make the children ready for life
in mainstream Indian society. In practical terms, this means that they should be
capable of generating their own income. There have been quite a number of SKCV children
who found their way in life; children who have become strong and friendly men and
women, fathers and mothers, whose marriages were celebrated at SKCV.
Street Children Who are they?
Children who have few and very irregular contacts with parents and other relatives
(mostly mothers and/or sisters). They may live together with other children on the
streets of the city, or they may be travelling permanently - always in transit.
Children who were literally abandoned by their parents and other relatives; who lived
on the streets from the beginning of their lives onwards as a result of serious family
problems; or who decided to turn their back on their parents/relatives because of
India is a country of contrasts. Next to a small group of rich people and a rapidly
growing middle class, there is a great number of people who have to fight for their
every day existence. Many among them resign. Often alcohol and domestic violence
make things worse. If they have children, they are neglected, abused or abandoned.
Many of these children exchange the misery of home for a tough life on the streets,
or they may search for institutional help right away. On the streets, children are
unprotected. They constitute an easy prey for dubious employers, gang leaders, pimps
and the police. They are, in fact, rightless and live according to rules which allow
drug abuse, criminality, prostitution and violence.
In the periphery of Vijayawada, a busy trading town in Andhra Pradesh, there is a
small peaceful enclave: a special village populated by ex-street boys. It offers
space for about 130 boys, who after having been a regular visitor of the SKCV night
shelter in the city, took the decision to change their lives completely. The village
lies on the banks of the mighty river Krishna. It consists of a group of tiled, pink
houses with verandas. There are neatly kept flower and vegetable gardens all around.
On one of the edges there is a cow and buffalo shed. The village includes a hall
for dining and another one for meditation. The latter visibly offers space for all
There are boys everywhere, their age varying between 4 and 20 years. They read, play
cricket or wash themselves or their clothes in the river. The moment the school starts,
the village turns more quiet. Just like everything else, the school has become a
product of the boys themselves. At their school they learn in a playful manner, offering
lots of space for handicrafts and dance. Most boys speak at least a little English
and ultimately a large share of the boys do their government exams.
Generally, you won’t see shouting wardens. The village seems to function without
any effort. You may ask yourself: who is in charge? The answer is that, by and large,
the management of the village lies in the hands of the boys themselves. The managing,
older boys regularly hold meetings, listening to one another and coming to decisions
in a way that can serve as an example to many others. The boys are not just kept
off the streets. Of course, they are protected from the tough world of the streets,
from drugs, violence and illness... And they are offered an alternative: they prepare
for their own life, with a family, a job and an income... But there is more: because
of their experience at SKCV, they may become special people who have learnt to appreciate
themselves and others.
The dream of Matthew (Manihara) Norton
The village on the bank of the river is the accomplished ideal of the founder and
father of SKCV, Matthew Norton, who started searching for adventure at an early age
- to begin with in the US and later on in India. In the 1980's he started to take
care of a number of street children in Pune. He married a local girl, Bhakti, with
the idea to dedicate their joined life to the improvement of the fate of a great
number of street children. In the late 1980's the mayor of Vijayawada, Jandhyala
Shankar, a popular and influential man, invited them to start a street children rescue
centre in his city. This invitation proved to be a solid foundation for SKCV. The
organisation is strongly integrated within the local community and can count on the
support of many of the inhabitants of Vijayawada.
It all started with a few simple buildings and a garden. At present, SKCV is a relatively
large organisation, with a separate office, a night shelter, the aforementioned boys’
village and the more recent girls’ centre. Matthew died in June 2009. By sharing
responsibilities and decision making with a group of ex-street boys who had stayed
on to work for the organisation, he had attempted to make himself superfluous during
his life. Nonetheless, his death came as a big blow and unleashed some political
turmoil within the organisation. It took Bhakti some time to change from being an
important but largely silent, motherly force in the background to become the head
of the organisation. While things have largely returned to normal, the environment
has changed considerably.
There are still large numbers of children who are abused and in need of help. However,
the number of children actually living on the streets has markedly decreased. In
itself this a joyful fact. It indicates that there has been some overall improvement
in the fate of the Indian people. For SKCV it means that the focus of work has changed.
You can read more about this and related developments under About us.
Nearly all children ran away from a very unpleasant or traumatic situation at home
in which they were confronted with a cocktail of problems that they themselves could
not solve: unemployment, poverty, alcoholism, abuse and mistreatment by (step) parents.
Ultimately there seemed no other way out than to leave home.
Having run away from an intolerable environment, they are forced to live on the pavements,
under bridges or make-shift shelters. They eat from dustbins or obtain food by begging
or stealing. They survive by becoming rag pickers, helping out in small teashops,
shining shoes, running errands or doing or other odd jobs. None of the street children
attend school, few have good health and they have no future prospects. Many die an
While somehow street children manage to get food, shelter and clothes, they can not
obtain love, affection and security. When these needs are provided their problems
are almost solved, and they quickly begin to act like the normal children they really
are. Sadly many have long term health and emotional problems.
Indian society tries to be caring but simply can not cope with all the demands of
a developing country that is racked with poverty. Charities such as SKCV serve a
vital role in providing care and support for these children, enabling them to reclaim
their childhood and look to the future with confidence and hope.
Taking a broad view, one could argue that in tackling problems of street children,
SKCV and other charities were helped by the rapid growth of the Indian economy. Gradually
the benefits of accelerated growth, which started in the early 1990’s, trickled down.
This seems to be one of the most important, albeit indirect, causes for a significant
decrease in the number of children living on the streets.
Still, the absolute number of street children is considerable... And the number of
children who are abused by parents and relatives is even larger. Nowadays, many of
such children do not take the street-life- route to SKCV, but have found more direct
ways to get there, such as Child Line (a child rescue telephone service).