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Children’s Development Bank: A bank by and for street children in Delhi
Detail: An unusual bank, the branches of which look more like lemonade shops than a house of finance, is helping street children in Delhi to save meager earnings, and learn about saving and planning for the future. Butterflies, a local NGO started this Children’s Development Bank in 2001. Today about 2000 children have accounts in 12 branches around Delhi. These branches are located inside the shelters run by the NGO where classes and other activities are organized for homeless children.

India is home to the world’s largest population of street children, a conservative estimate of 10 million. In Delhi alone, more than 100,000 youngsters are believed to live on the streets. Many remain with their poverty-stricken families, but thousands do not. A large number cluster around the city's main railway stations—heavily trafficked areas where they can sell their wares and where passengers leave behind detritus they can pick through.

These bare-bones banks are run almost entirely by and for street children. "We see this as a life skill," said Sebastian Mathew, director of the project. "How much they save is not important. It's the habit of saving and not spending their money on sniffing glue, smoking, watching the same movie again and again." Adult staff members are always present to ensure the safety of the children and to collect the takings at the end of each day, depositing the cash at regular intervals in a dedicated account in a private bank.

But in most respects, it's the children who run the show and set the rules. At each branch, the account holders, who range in age from 9 to 18, elect two volunteer managers from the group every six months. The youngsters decided that the bank should do its best not to allow deposits of money made from stealing or selling drugs and pornography.
Source: Based on a story by Henry Chu titled, “In India, a bank for street children” in Los Angeles Times, June 7, 2008.
Date: June 11 2008