11 Experiences with Juvenile Home children at Dongri - Sr. Jean Athikalam

posted Aug 8, 2018, 11:27 PM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Aug 8, 2018, 11:28 PM ]
"You are going to teach where? in the prison! Why would you want to teach those kids who are DANGEROUS?"

These were some of the reactions from my friends and family members when I told them that I was going to teach at Dongri Children's Home. I explained to them that I wished to work with children at risk. I told my friends that these children are human beings with feelings and emotions; if we don't work with them, how will they be re-integrated into the mainstream of society?

This is my fifth year in Prison Ministry at Dongri Children's Home. The first three years, I worked in the Girls' section of the Juvenile Home. In the last two years, I have been working in the Boys' section. The boys comprise of two groups - those who have committed crime and children with delinquency. In the Home, these students have academic classes in the morning, and a work study programme in the afternoon where they practise their vocational skills.

Interacting with these children, I realised that these children typically came from homes, neighbourhoods and schools where they had been labelled "the bad boy". Some of the children rarely experienced any form of kindness at home, while a majority had been neglected or abused at home. School had not encouraged these students nor treated them kindly and respectfully. These children lived up to the low expectations, and eventually entered into the world of crime.

The sad thing I learned was how little most of them understood about how to live in society and become productive persons. These children lacked the essential and formative knowledge - not to steal, not to use drugs, to go to school every day, to be kind and helpful to others; instead, they picked up from their environment a street mentality - rules that constituted their own moral code - which was deviant from the society in which they lived. Therefore, these children need rehabilitation which is obviously a long arduous process.