Plan International Helps Reunite Homeless Teen With Family
As a child in Bangladesh, Ashraful knows how fortunate he is to be with his family.
“I have a father who cares for me and a mother who loves me unconditionally,” he said. “I have siblings who hug me when I feel low. I feel protected. I feel happy. But, every child who has lived on the streets is not so lucky. Many of them do not know or remember where their families are.”
Ashraful knows the struggles of street living all too well.
A former street dweller himself, the teenager is grateful that a Plan International program helped reunite him with his family while he earned an education.
At 14, Ashraful left home to live with his brother and sister-in-law in Bangladesh’s capitol of Dhaka. Because they were unable to keep him and pay for his school fees, he turned to the streets so he could continue his education.
Ashraful was homeless for a year and a half, working for 12 hours every day in order to afford school.
“Life on the streets was full of uncertainties,” he said. “Everyone tried to exploit me: the police, older children, snatchers – everyone.”
Eventually a teacher from his school learned about a Plan-supported drop-in center in Dhaka, which offered Ashraful safety and shelter. With a safe place to sleep at night, Ashraful continued to work as a newspaper seller so he could remain in school.
Ashraful lived at the center for more than a year, and through a project for street children, he was eventually reunited with his family. With the support of Plan, Ashraful’s family moved to Dhaka so that they could all live together without Ashraful’s education being compromised.
The marks of poverty can be seen throughout their home, but Ashraful is luckier than most, as his family is warm, loving, and fully supportive of his ambitions.
“It is not a life any child would ask for, but I had to accept it to continue my education,” he said of his time as a street child. “People have stigma related to street children. We felt unwanted. No one cares if you manage to get your meal or not.”