This profile was prepared when Anselm Rosario was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1989.
The New Idea
Over the course of time he has worked with Bangalore's scavenging street children, Anselm has learned who they are, what they experience and feel, the economics of scavenging, approaches that work and others that do not, and who is doing what to help. Having penetrated the world of these children, he has developed and refined a series of non-institutional ways of penetrating their armor of suspicion and hostility and providing a sequence of opportunities and events that each boy or girl can in their own time use to grow. One element of his outreach is a fair-price shop that purchases the children's collected paper, plastic, boxes, etc. and markets these materials at wholesale. Not only does this lessen their dependence on the very tough commercial retail purchase shops, but also it gives Anselm and his colleagues a practical point of contact, once that respects these children's work and economic independence. At this same facility Anselm provides care, washing facilities, food and powdered mile, forty beds the children can use for a few days or longer, as they need, and access to basic medical care. This center is backed up by another that provides basic education and job training. Without such training these street children find it very difficult to make the jump from scavenging into the formal economy. When they try they are commonly frustrated because the only jobs available are boring, dead-end chores entailing hard physical labor and none of the freedom they enjoy scavenging. Anselm's work has helped 20 percent of those who have come to him to find new jobs and a further 15 percent cut their scavenging back to seasonal supplementation for what they earn in another new primary source of income. Such centers can only reach a limited number of children, and then only part of the time. (There are an estimated 25,000 scavengers in Bangalore, almost all young, probably one third of whom are entirely on their own.) Anselm's organization, the Ragpicker's Education and Development Scheme (REDS), consequently has developed new street contact and education programs that now regularly reach 2000 of the city's scavenger street children. Anselm is comfortable that these three prongs of the model approach he has been evolving now allow him and his co-workers to provide a significant number of the city's street children an environment in which they can develop. He plans over the next several years to further refine this approach, to supplement it by organizing at a higher social level, and to spread his work broadly. His work beyond the level of his model of direct service has several interrelated elements. First, he hopes to build the public's awareness of and engaged participation in helping the plight of the street children in the community's midst. This is important not only in terms of needed help but, probably at least as important, in order to lessen the fear and hostility that define much of these youngsters' interactions with society. Anselm also plans to try to encourage more economically productive recycling programs, programs designed to help the environment, to help the scavengers and their institutions, and to focus and engage the middle class on the problem. The first step is to encourage major sources of valuable wastes to give the young scavengers he organizes favored access to these wastes. There are, however, probably limits to how far he will be able to go with this approach since these firms typically now sell such wastes profitably to the highest bidder. Therefore he is planning to see if he can open a new source of high value wastes: middle class homes and the smaller institutions in these neighborhoods. REDS already maintains several cycle rickshaws which its kids use in their scavenging work and pays for the food at its centers in significant part through the current, narrow-marginal scavenging approaches. Anselm has one further, longer-term objective: to work out how to intervene to help families where children are at risk of falling into the street. As with his current remedial work, he hopes to demonstrate effective approaches and then encourage the government and others to follow up.