I came across a heart-wrenching article yesterday in a women's magazine featuring the plight of children living on Chow Kit road and other parts of town - Masjid India, Petaling Street, TAR Road, etc. Seeing photos of how these children live brought tears to my eye. It peaked my interested to find out what the government and other potentially influencial bodies are doing to aid these children and here's an excerpt from The Star, dated Sunday, July 9, 2006:
Uncertain future for Chow Kit children
EXCLUSIVEBy PARVEEN GILL
They live in dingy homes along the streets of Chow Kit in the heart of Kuala Lumpur. Their mothers are drug addicts and sex workers. They sell their bodies to feed their habit, leaving the children in a world of their own.
In the daytime, these children play in the vicinity of their makeshift homes and wait for their mothers to return. At night, some of them follow their mothers to work, sleeping on the pavements, while their mothers entertain the clients at home. It's a sad world punctuated by hope as kind souls from NGOs try their best to make life better for these forgotten children.
KUALA LUMPUR: They are the unfortunate kids of the world. Circumstances beyond their control have made the streets of Chow Kit their dingy home and unwelcome playground. Some are forced to tag along with their sex worker mothers as they ply their trade. Others share a rundown wooden house or a small room in a shoplot with their siblings, waiting for their mothers to return home. Most do not have much to eat and sometimes resort to stealing to feed themselves.
At night, some of these children, who are said to number in the hundreds in Chow Kit alone, sleep on the pavements while their mothers “entertain” clients at home. Ira is only 10 but plays “mother” to her four brothers, aged between one and seven, and a nine-year-old sister. All have different fathers. The children live in a ramshackle wooden hut in Kg Periuk, Chow Kit, with the magnificent Petronas Twin Towers in the backdrop.
Ira's 26-year-old mother Maria is said to have sold off her youngest child for RM15,000 last year, shortly after delivering the baby. Maria, who is a drug addict, is either at “work” or “high” most of the time. Meals are hard to come by, but thanks to Yayasan Salam Malaysia, Ira and her siblings get simple meals such as a cup of Milo and plain bread if they visit the local NGO Children's Activity Centre in Chow Kit. (See Doc: Treat children of sex workers like other kids). That too is subject to availability of food at the centre.
Ira goes to school with help of the NGO and well-wishers. “I hope to be a dancer or teacher. I would especially like to become a teacher because some of my teachers are very caring and loving towards me,” said Ira, when met at her “home”. She, however, faces an uncertain future, if things do not change for the better soon. There is a possibility that circumstances may force her to become a sex worker just like her mother and grandmother. Ira's sister Ish answered: “Entah (Don't know)”, when asked about her ambition. This perhaps aptly describes the uncertain future awaiting Ira and the many other street kids in Chow Kit.
Ten-year-old Chiku, whose mother Ora is also a sex worker, started school recently after Yayasan Salam consultant Dr Hartini Zainudin managed to obtain a birth certificate for him. While other children his age are discovering the wonders of the Digital Age, Chiku has just learnt to write his name. “Before this, when others went to school, I just roamed around here,” he said when met by this reporter. Chiku dreams of becoming a policeman because he wants to “catch bad people”. But if he fails at that, he said he would opt to become a motorcycle racer. When asked about his mother, Chiku bowed his head and replied: “She works very hard.” Ora, 33, said she tries her best to provide for Chiku, who is her firstborn. Her two younger children were given away after she gave birth to them.
STREET OF DESPAIR: The world of the Chow Kit kids revolves around the streets along Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman. For the children of the sex workers, numbering in the hundreds, the streets are both a playground and a place to sleep while their mothers 'entertain' clients at home.“My drug addict boyfriend is a heavy gambler. He forced me into prostitution when I was 20. I even had to entertain men for a mere RM5 when I was nine months' pregnant to support his habits,” said Ora.
Dr Hartini said there was fear that some of these children might have contracted HIV during birth. Maria, for instance, refused to take any precautions during intercourse. “In the case of Ora, her son can go to bed when his mother is done with business,” she said.