Rescue story of a future doctor cursed to be a rag-picker

Anitha (age 13) who is under the care of SHAPE’s literacy centers (know more) was once a rag picker on the streets of Tiruvannamalai. She picked up her uncle’s job because her father died. Her mother, Radha, is a wage worker who had to take care of Anitha’s little brother Bharani (age 4). Radha did not consider Anitha’s education essential, due to misogynistic Indian traditions. The family of three has to live on a weekly income of INR 600 (<€7). Even though Mr. Ramesh, Anitha’s uncle, takes care of the family from time to time with his rag-picking income, he’s got a family of his own. He found himself in the awkward situation of choosing between his own family’s needs, and Radha’s. All of these factors pressured Anitha to joining this profession. She spent 14 months picking rags before being rescued by SHAPE in 2018 when she was found by one of our volunteers. Her mother, initially reluctant, later agreed to stop Anitha from rag-picking, after we promised that we would cover some of the family expenses.

Asked about her rag-picking days, Anitha stated, “I often prick myself with needles and other things because I used to pick the hospital wastes. I like being near hospitals because I know one day I will be in that building.

I want to be a doctor.“, says Anitha about her dreams.I know it is doable because medical studies are affordable for people who study well and I always score above 90% in all my exams.” 

We pray every day to find thousands of Anithas out there (Click here to read about the literate child workers of Tamil Nadu), working in far more hazardous conditions. We pray that they can become doctors, engineers, artists, peacemakers, leaders – whatever they want to be. We pray that poverty, disease, and the unforgiving economies they are born into don’t put out their sparks.

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