Voice of Care Leavers
In this conversation, read about the young careleaver from India, Shankar Ishwar Pradhan. His remarkable story and personality will leave a huge impression on our lives. The warm and openhearted conversation shared his strengths and perseverance. Whatever came his way, he never gave up! This open conversation by Shanku will inspire and encourage lots of young careleavers all over the world!
Interviewed by : Dijana Jankovic (GCLC Working Group Member)
My name is Shankar Ishwar Pradhan but everybody calls me Shanku or Shanky. I was born in Orissa India and now live in the city of Vadodara. Currently, I’m 23 years old and I am pursuing my final year Mater’s in Psychology from MS University in the city of Vadodara. This means that in a very short time – I will be a psychologist. I have great dreams for the future and I want to help people, especially youngsters and care leavers like me.
When I was 7 years old, my father died. My mother had to take care of my siblings so, at that point, somebody had to earn money for food, and being the oldest, I had to do it. I started working long hours at the factory and I was very tired all the time. One day I fell asleep at work and my supervisor beat me up. I got very mad and I broke the machine run from the factory as I was afraid my supervisor and my mom will beat me. As I was afraid of this accident, I decided to end my life, I tried ending my life by consuming poison but I couldn’t succeed and ended up at railway stations as a homeless child.
It was a long and hard journey. First I was living in a kind of community of homeless children at the railway station and working for food. At one point I came across someone who brought me in contact with the foundations of Don Bosco Snehalaya. It’s a Catholic NGO for shelter for boys, provides and all the facilities. So in a few days, I went there with my friend. That way I could finally go back to school. But it wasn’t a perfect solution; I did run away from there also a couple of times but came back every time. Thankfully, they were generous enough to take me back each time.
Many years later when I was in 12th grade, I met with my mother again, but I wasn’t able to connect with her or my siblings, as my whole childhood I wasn’t part of the family. For me, my first family was Don Bosco Snehalaya. Don Bosco Snehalaya was always my home, even now.
What I see in India, is that care leavers are a forgotten and invisible group of people. There are lots of benefits for different less fortunate individuals to help them manage life easier but the care leavers are excluded from all of them. I want to help this community to get more attention from the government, they should recognize this problem of care leavers’ position in society and change some rules to help us achieve more. Most important for me is that the care levers have a right to live life proudly, happily, and independently.
To be able to arrange anything in my country like a scholarship or any kind of benefice, you need lots of legal documents about your family. As an orphan, you are not able to provide these documents a lot of the time, and that way you cannot attend education, for example, I plan to go abroad to study and work as a psychologist. I would like to work for some time in Canada but to be able to apply I need a legal guardian who would be my guarantee. As I don’t have contact with my family anymore and I have nobody else to ask to do this for me. Also, to be able to have a family of your own as a careleaver, to be able to get married and to have children, there are lots of challenges that we as young people have to face compared to our peers who are growing up within their own families. This shows also that there is so much discrimination toward care leavers and it’s not fair. No matter what we achieve, we feel a lot of shame that we always carry within us.
I was already an active member of a group of Global Care Leavers and CLAN in my region and we had lots of contact with each other.
For me, it was the fact that now we have a global platform where I am able to listen to the ideas of others with similar stories. I was inspired to see that there are people who are really working to globally position globally and trying to bring the changes which are more visible and favorable for us, all over the world. To experience how our voices count for something, to be in this position to be heard, meant so much to us.
As I was so impressed and inspired by the Convention, I started making my local CLAN group active and reaching out to other cities and care leavers, but it wasn’t easy taking responsibility and trying to bring everyone together. At some point, I noticed that lots of care leavers are not very motivated to take part in activities if they are not benefiting from them in some concrete way. For a short period, this was quite disheartening for me so I stepped out of the group but now I am back in. I believe that you should invest time and energy to help make a positive change in society and make our needs more noticeable and I will continue to commit to this cause. I have realized that somebody has to take responsibility and step up so that others can start joining it and now I am sure – I won’t give up anymore!
We need to do more physical activities, we need to gather other care leavers because most of us don’t know what The GCLC doing, as most of the care leavers, is never got this kind of exposure. Lots of care leavers think that everybody just gave up on them, it seems like nobody really cares. They should know that there are people who do care.
Growing up, I had to overcome a lot. Who could imagine that someone like me, a homeless child without care, could achieve what I did – becoming a psychologist. I want to be an example, role model, and hope for all young people who are losing hope, and who do not believe in themselves. One has to be strong sometimes to live through the hardship and one needs at least one person who really believes in them. For me, I have lots of people but that one person who never gave up on me was the director of Don Bosco Snehalaya Fr. George. He was the one who always believed in me and held my hand when things would get difficult. He never let me down. Also now he is supportive of my future plans and trying to help me.
Dare to dream and dare to proceed with your dreams. Never stop believing in yourself and in God. I want to say to all young careleavers all over the world, look around, find something that motivates you, and trust that all the things you missed in your childhood, you can provide to your kids in the future. We can change our lives. We all have the potential and we all can at least keep on trying until our last breath. Look at me, where I came from, and what I’m trying to achieve now, if I can do this, you can do it too! My life at this moment isn’t perfect, there are a lot of things I still need to take care of, but I know what I want, I know I will get there and eventually live the life I pictured for myself.
We would love to hear and share your story.
The Interviewee has granted the permission to Global Care Leavers Community (hereinafter called GCLC) in a written and verbal format, the exclusive rights to publish, distribute, communicate to the public, translate, archive, store, and use in databases and data networks (e.g. the Internet), the interview hosted by the working group member of GCLC. The interviewee has shared the consent form with their signature for the above-mentioned purposes and is registered in the GCLC records for reference.