Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus is in many ways the heart of Mumbai. Every day, tens of thousands of the megacity’s pedestrian traffic passes through or over the station’s 14 platforms. It is the busiest train station in India.
This is where the city inhales families seeking relief from the poverty that shapes life in rural India. There is perhaps no easier place in India for desperate parents to abandon their children when it is no longer possible to care for them.
At night, the soot-stained Gothic arches of the old building shelter huddling groups of street boys who make a living by begging or picking up trash to sell to vendors for recycling.
Not many little girls are seen on the streets around the station, nor are there little bands of girls begging and picking up trash around the station.
Girls who find themselves left here, face a darker misery than hunger and abandonment. With one of Asia’s most notorious red-light districts just over 2 miles away, Chattrapati Shivaji is also the most likely place where a pimp or drug dealer can find a hungry girl wandering around.
Vanessa was born on the streets around this station. Her family was poor and had little hope of offering Vanessa a future that was different from theirs.
Knowing the likelihood of Vanessa being trafficked while they were out trying to earn a day’s wage, Vanessa’s mother started looking for a safer place where her 5-year-old daughter could grow up.
Vanessa’s mother came into contact with an SOS partner ministry’s outreach team through a feeding program at Chhatrapati Shivaji Station. Here she heard of a home where her daughter would be fed, educated and grow up in safety.
At the age 5, Vanessa found herself in a whole new world. Moving off the streets and into a home full of new sisters and the promise of a future she could never have dreamed of, Vanessa slowly began to find her way.
“When the girls first come to the shelter, they are lost. They don’t know how to be or speak properly. It takes time to adjust, but somehow they do,” said Dawn, one of the shelter workers.
Vanessa is happy, smart and excelling in every area of her life. Because of this outreach, Vanessa and her family have come to know the Lord and attend church every week.
Vanessa is a fun loving 10-year-old, who enjoys dancing and the performing arts.
She is one of many children who have come close to the everyday threat that Human
Trafficking poses to girls in India.
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