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In a Goa beyond visitors’ eyes[continued]

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Today, Rekha is a champion street-educator on AIDS related issues. You will find her daily among truckers, taxi ranks and labourer huddles, explaining how to put on a condom and protect themselves. She is unabashed and shy men walk up to her for a chat. She strides home with a monthly pay packet of Rs 2250 and is an admired member in the household.

They found Feroz Khan too, eight years ago as a ten year old boy. His father and all the men around him were drinking louts. Feroz literally grew up with Jan Ugahi. Today he is a silent, dedicated worker at Jan Ugahi, and a model citizen.

Greg speaks dreamily of what Sonia Borker is going to become. "She is a natural academic. Her mother is a poor tailor and a single parent. When I started coaching Sonia, eight years ago,I found her exceptional." So they put her on fast track and into a regular school where she is about to give her 12th standard public exams.

Eight years is a long time and many street children -- quite a few of them, parentless-- have grown to adulthood while being rooted at Jan Ugahi and gone away to sober jobs all over Goa. "Recently we inaugurated our new day centre and sent an invitation to all of them to come," says Bernie. "But they arrived in the morning for the evening event and took over the show. They cleaned, decorated, arranged and when the time came stood in the line to receive the guests. After the show they stayed on to straighten things out." After all, they had not known another home.

But the queen of Jan Ugahi is clearly Gosby Sheikh. Greg and Bernie found the innocent nine year old tagging along with her parents. They went from shop to shop singing and begging for money. It was the way of their Sakir Muslim community, widely deemed a public nuisance, to be bribed a few pennies and shooed to move on.

Well, Gosby started coming to Jan Ugahi and went on to pass her 10th standard through the Open School system. Today she is 16 and a well-paid schoolmarm at Jan Ugahi, teaching young street children through songs, games, dances and plays.

Gosby is how people bloom: some reasonable soil, a little care and a few indications of love. That, in fact, is the Jan Ugahi mantra.

Address: Jan Ugahi, 'Vikrant' 5th Floor, Malbhat, Margao, Goa
Phone:[0832] 2737167
email: ,

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