Children speaking out
A day in the life at Bal Ashram

Imtyaz lives at Bal Ashram, Kailash’s home for children who have been liberated from slavery. It is built like a village, with dormitories, a school, a library, a dining hall and play areas among beautiful trees and hills in rural Rajasthan. Some of the children attend school in the nearest town, while others get vocational training at Bal Ashram. 

Kailash has built two homes for children who have been set free from child labour and debt slavery: Mukti Ashram and Bal Ashram. Ashram is Hindi, and it means a calm, secluded place in which to rest. At Mukti Ashram in New Delhi, the children receive medical care and protection as soon as they have been liberated. Then they are reunited with their families as soon as possible. But some children can’t go back home, because of poverty or because their parents can’t take care of them. These children get a new home at Bal Ashram, which has space for 100 children.
The children who come here have been through terrible experiences. They are helped by teachers, social workers and one another to build their confidence and faith in the future. Some only need to live here for a few months, while others stay until they are adults and able to care for themselves.

04.45 Musical good morning
Imtyaz gets up quarter of an hour before his friends. He wants to practice his favourite thing – singing.

Bal Ashram prayer

05.00 Enough sun for everyone
After making the beds and a quick tidy, the children gather on the sports pitch. Since they have different religions, they hold a shared morning prayer addressed to the sun instead of different gods. 
   “After all, the sun gives heat and energy to everyone,” says Imtyaz. 

07.00 Working together
Everyone shares the responsibility for the school area, and for one another. Imtyaz and his best friend are in the same work group. They help to tidy, pick up litter, and care for the plants and trees.

“If anyone is sad, ill, or has a problem, we try to solve it together,” explains Imtyaz. 

09.00 What’s going on?
Time to gather in the classroom to read the paper together. What has happened in India and around the world? 

10.00 Music lesson
Imtyaz gets good advice from his teacher, who was also liberated from child labour by Kailash.

13.00 Lunchtime
Everyone washes their own plate. 

13.30 Cooling off
The sun is high and it’s dangerously hot outside. Today, a pool has been filled with water, and everyone takes the chance to bathe before the water is used to water plants and vegetable patches.

16.00 Life skills 
Imtyaz and his friends practice making presentations, conversational skills, and problem solving. 

17.30 In or out?
After a snack, cricket is a favourite pastime. 

Yoga at Bal Ashram

19.00 A quiet moment 
Imtyaz has learned to meditate at Bal Ashram. He believes that it helps him to clear his thoughts and concentrate better on his schoolwork. 

20.00 Party time!
Kailash has organised a party for the children, with performances, dancing and music. Lots of funny stories are told too!

Bal Ashram night time

21.00 Good night!
Imtyaz shares a room with seven friends and quickly falls asleep in his bunk bed.

Photo: Kim Naylor

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