Arts as a Springboard for Development and Empowerment of Street Children

Eye on India in Partnership with Teamwork Arts Pvt Ltd. works to create opportunities in the Arts for disadvantaged and at-risk communities. A long time community partner, Salaam Baalak Trust is an India based not for profit dedicated to providing protection, care, education, health and vocational training to street children. This post is second in a series that ‘Eye on India’ will be sharing over the next six months. 

Thank you SBT for your contribution to our blog and your continued dedication to the health and welfare of street children in India. 

Oblivious to perils of crime, sexual abuse and economic exploitation, hundreds of children leave their homes in a quest for a better life and land up on the streets of Delhi and other metropolitan cities. These streets as living spaces are zones where lives of these runaway children are dominated by fear, anxiety and anger. Exposed to the violence on the streets, these young children acquire a state of mind where everything external is threatening to them. Living on their own, deprived of education, food, shelter, love and care, they become emotionally frail and vulnerable.

27 years ago, Salaam Baalak Trust (SBT) recognized the extreme plight of these children and established child protection mechanisms for them. The Trust (a not for profit entity) presently provides residential care, education, health, nutrition and vocational training to the children rescued from streets and difficult circumstances.

One of the mainstays of SBT’s work since its inception, has been the use of arts and theatre for emotional and psychological recuperation of the rescued children. In fact, SBT’s association with performing arts stretches over two decades. The Trust traces its roots back to Nukkad, a theatre intervention which was formed to use drama as a remedial therapy for these children and gain insights into understanding their problems and concerns.

SBT has used performing arts as the springboard to enable reflection, expression and empowerment of children rescued from the streets. In many theatre workshops organised by SBT, children often shed their inhibitions share their stories of pain, abuse, insecurity and broken dreams. There are numerous stories of children responding to the arts in miraculous ways, including wishing to go back home, abandoning drugs, making friends, getting encouraged to discuss their lives, finding their homes, and most of the times finding themselves. Annual plays, nukkad nataks and performing arts training offered at SBT have been instrumental in helping children express themselves and showcase their talents. Arts and theatre, thus, becomes a medium of catharsis for children to open up and express themselves freely.

Going beyond emotional healing, arts and theatre activities at SBT have empowered children not just creatively but professionally. Many children from SBT have gone on to become successful choreographers, photographers, puppeteers and actors while commanding considerable respect as artists in society. Two of SBT’s alumni Kapil and Pankaj who are successful theatre artists are training children in various residential centres run by the trust. Also, the exposure that these children get through performing arts is immense; they travel the world and learn so much more about life.

Working as a volunteer with SBT, I have come across many children who become super excited when they have a theatre, photography, dance or acting class. Their zeal increases manifold when they get to participate in SBT’s annual play and other events. SBT’s vision of using arts, theatre and talent development exercises as a remedial therapy, only makes my belief stronger that avenues for creative expression can be life-transforming.  SBT’s performing arts programme offers valuable lessons on effectively harnessing arts, theatre and talent development exercises for all round development of marginalised street children.


By Salaam Baalak Trust (SBT) Team

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Eye on India is a young and dynamic organization whose role is to serve as a facilitator and integrator. Promoting appreciation for diverse programming in the cultural landscape of Chicago, the festival’s uniqueness lies in its ability to create and inspire collaboration among various cultural, community and business organizations across Chicago and other cities in the US and India.

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