If you haven’t seen the movie ‘Lion’ yet, you should. Because it is a true story, it is particularly emotional.
Saroo Brierley has had an unbelievable life. Born and partly raised in an area called Ganesh Talai in India, he was accidentally separated from his family at age five while out with his brother Guddu. Hoping to find his way back, he hopped on a train, thinking he could navigate his way home. But he couldn't. Instead, he strayed farther and farther away, ending up desperately lost at the Kolkata Railway Terminus, rescued by an orphanage and later adopted by a Tasmanian couple.
Miraculously, years later, Saroo finds his way back to his home town Khandwa, a medium sized town, smack bang in the middle of India.
‘Lion’ raises some powerful themes and incredibly important social justice issues that should not be ignored. The movie tells us that over 80,000 children go missing each year in India and there are over 11 million children living on the streets in India alone.
People have asked me if ‘Lion’ is like the India I know and have experienced. The answer is ‘yes’ without a doubt!
Back in January 2013, my family also got lost in the crowd at Kolkata railway station. It was a frightening experience to lose sight of our son, for a couple of moments that seemed like eternity. I could only describe this railway station like being stuck in a crowd after the fireworks at Circular Quay, Sydney on New Years Eve.
A BBC World News report estimated that up to 100 children and young people are trafficked through the Kolkata Terminus railway station each and every day. A grim statistic tells us that in 2014 India witnessed a 38.7% rise in human trafficking.
Saroo’s hometown of Kandwa, is about 1300km away from Kotdwara. It would take you a full 24 hours to travel this distance by train. Both towns look very similar. The main difference I felt was that the producers of the ‘Lion’ made the location a little too tidy. There did not seem to enough litter, pigs, dogs and cows all over the place. Other than this, it all looked quite similar.
Eric Schmidt US philanthropist says of ‘Lion’ – “this movie is a reminder of how important it is to be a global family, and shows that miracles can happen without borders.”
Our work in Kotdwara brings this same reminder. We are a global family bringing hope to others. We see miracles when we see lives changed. Each week we are educating and feeding 180 children, most of whom would otherwise be working on the streets, on trains, begging, fossicking through rubbish or forced into child labour. We are also supporting the local anti-human trafficking police unit and together we are going into the slums and villages to talk about the many scams and dangers they face. The families we help live in terrible poverty and because of this, the kids are at high risk of being trafficked. It is not uncommon to hear of kids sold to traffickers for just $50US! Education is a key to breaking this cycle.
“miracles can happen without borders”
If you were touched by ‘Lion’ and feel compelled to make a difference, please consider joining the story of www.kotdwarahelp.org
Thanks to technology and ‘Google Earth’ Saroo found his miracle. Thanks to technology we are connected to Kotwdara and I am talking to our staff a couple of days a week. Technology connects families in remote India with us in Australia. This in itself is a miracle that we would never imagined possible just a few years ago.
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