Sun, Jun 13, 2004 - Page 11 News List

Bank run by Indian street-children is ready to go global


A bank run by a group of Indian street-children for three years has decided to go global, the Hindustan Times newspaper reported yesterday.

The Bal Vikas Bank, or Child Development Bank (CDB), was started for Delhi's street-children by the nongovernmental organization (NGO) Butterflies three years ago, the report said.

The bank has 12 branches in Delhi and now plans to open branches in other Indian cities as well as Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Nepal in the near future, according to a representative of Butterflies.

The CDB's about 400 account holders -- mostly "rag pickers" and street-children -- own and run the bank from its headquarters at a night shelter for homeless children, the report said.

Many of the children, some as young as 10 and 11, sell newspapers, boxes of tissues and other wares at traffic intersections. Some work on daily wages. Others collect waste and then sell it for recycling.

"They already earn a living and we are trying to help them to invest in themselves," said Rita Panicker of Butterflies.

The NGO's campaign originally began as an effort to keep the children off drugs and inculcate a habit of saving.

To open an account, a child first has to become a member of the club that works as collective guarantor. The bank also disburses loans, but the applicant has to sign an undertaking that the money will not be used for wasteful expenditure.

Butterflies recently organized a workshop for directors, country co-ordinators and managers of the bank -- all children -- from organizations in Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Nepal and the Indian states of Bihar, West Bengal, Jammu and Kashmir and Delhi.

Members of the CDB, including 17-year-old bank manager Anuj, addressed the new initiates on the nitty-gritty of taking deposits, disbursing loans and maintaining account books.

Mohammed Yousef, a member of the Afghan NGO Aschiana said the bank would be very useful for children who were forced to work after being left homeless by the war in Afghanistan.

Bijaya Sanju from Nepal's NGO Concern said the concept should be implemented in all countries that had street children.

"It will help them become self dependent and gradually move off the streets," he said.

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