The seed of Jeevodaya was laid in 1990s in Madhya Pradesh, at Itarsi railway station which is one of the biggest railway junctions of India with more than 158 trains passing daily to different parts of our country. No train in India comes without children, who would have an easy access to travel without ticket and earn a minimum of Rs 100 for their livelihood by begging, sweeping in the trains or selling edibles.
Without proper legal mechanism to mainstream these children and with sheer lack of sensitivity and awareness the state authorities remained blind towards these children who victimize them and, detain them for any crime that occurred on the railway platform.
Sr. Clara Animottil, from Sisters of St. Joseph of Chambery frequently visited Itarsi, to pay visit to others from her community in Itarsi, when often she came face to face with children displaced, unnoticed, and vulnerable on the Railway Platform. This brought in her a continuous upheaval of emotions and a sense of responsibility towards these children whom she thought too has the equal right for a beautiful rising childhood. Her quest in searching for a sustainable solution and passion to work for these children at platform resulted in an initiative in 1999 which later evolved as Jeevodaya as we see today.
Jeevodaya had a humble beginning with no place, but a group of 90 to 100 children both boys and girls between the age of 5 to 16 who due to the hostile living environment developed a defensive survival mechanism, unapologetic and abusive. The society may name them as an anti-social but, they were the same children whose innocence and childhood was marred by discrimination, victimization by the society itself.After working for many years in 1999, Sr. Clara brought together these children under one umbrella, which in turn sent a shock wave to the railway authority and the passengers who were amazed and intrigued with the improving living conditions of the children who were now trying to learn, read and recite poem, read newspaper and started to keep themselves clean, organizing themselves for their daily chores including cooking food, earning their daily living, and also towards saving money.
In the year 2000, realizing the need and honoring the efforts of Sr. Clara, Railway Mazdoor Union offered their office for the upliftment of railway children to Sr. Clara. Soon after a British couple Ashley and Jane Butterfield on completion of their 25 years of tourism in India for foreigners took our children as their guide and sponsored first Shelter home and thus Jeevodaya found a home for children where they live and grow together as a family.
Sr. Clara Animottil
Program Coordinator Sparc.