Don Bosco Ashalayam knew its humble beginnings on the busy platforms of Howrah Train Station. Father Anthony, a Salesian priest, was passing through the station on one of his numerous journeys when he noticed an unsettling number of children roaming around the platforms. They looked distressed and miserable. Alarmed, Fr Anthony decided to approach them and learn more about their situation. He started coming to the station regularly to spend time with them. He learned about their struggles, their constant fight for survival and the abuse they were regularly victim of. He observed them working in menial jobs during the day, and fighting for their safety at night. Unable to bear such misery, Father Anthony decided to act. On December 1985, he opened the first night shelter with the help of the NGO Seva Sanga Samity. The home was located in Pilkhana, one of the major slum areas of the city, better known under its fictional name “Anand Nagar” – the “City of Joy” – as given by author Dominique Lapierre in the famous eponymous novel.
Within a few years, Ashalayam became vastly renowned for its work and gained great acceptance among the street children and destitute communities. As a result, an increasing number of children were eager to join the Heaven of Home. Over the years, in order to answer this growing demand, Ashalayam started to open new homes. Nowadays, Ashalayam counts 20 Children’s Homes and 2 Night Shelters. The NGO also expanded its action in the slums and railway stations through 4 programs focusing on street presence, education, medical care and counselling. In 30 years of work, Ashalayam has helped over 80 000 destitute children and their families.