“Now I understand the value of family.”
In Spring 2023, 14-year-old Syan ran away from home, following in the footsteps of friends who had left the rural Nepalese village they lived in, in search of a better life. Arriving in Kathmandu, Syan spent his days roaming the city streets, collecting scrap and begging. Day-to-day he was only able to make a small amount of money, which often wasn’t enough to buy food. Life on the streets was incredibly hard for Syan, he explains, “I felt so alone – I had no one to share my problems with.” Sometimes other boys would steal the little money he had been able to make.
When Sunil, (a project worker for Toybox local partner SathSath), came across Syan, he saw that Syan had an injury on his arm, sustained when he had been trying to hide from the police*. Sunil cleaned Syan’s wound and gave him something to eat. During their conversation, Syan explained that he had run away from home. He explained how he regretted this and wanted to return home but could not recall many details about where he was from or how to get back.
The outreach team made a commitment to meet Syan again the next day at the same time and place. However, when they returned the following day, he was no longer there. Fortunately, after continuous searching, the team came across Syan again a few days later in another area of the city. He had spent the whole night begging and was in a dire state - hungry and exhausted, having lost all his money. The outreach team took him to their head office, where they gave him breakfast. There they had the opportunity to find out about Syan’s background. Syan’s mother had passed away and his family struggled to make ends meet, which had led Syan to leave home. When the team found out the name of Syan’s school, they were able to trace its location. They coordinated with the head teacher and were then able to contact his family.
Sunil recalls, “The one moment that we cannot forget is when Syan’s father saw his son. His eyes filled with tears. He was not able to speak a single word due to happiness, and his face was delighted. It is a real achievement to give a parent back their lost child.”
Syan is now living safely back at home with his family and is back to studying in the village school. Syan’s hope for the future is to join the Nepali army and serve his country. “My role model is Jackie Chan – he’s inspired me to become an army leader to protect my family and country.” He continues, “If possible, never run away from home. You will have lots of problems if you are away from your loved ones. The most important lesson I learned after detaching from my family was their love and care for me. Now I understand the value of family.”
*Children who live and work on the streets in Nepal face criminalisation simply for being on the streets. Since 2015, the Central Child Welfare Board, now known as the Child Rights Board, along with the government, called for the police to not allow any child to stay on the street. As a result, there are currently no laws or policies that directly prohibit police roundups of street children in Kathmandu.
To learn more about Toybox's work to reunite families, take a look at our blog post here.