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CSKS (Cinnamul-Shishu Kishore Sangstha) is a small non-government organisation which started working with street children in Dhaka in 1987.

The approach of CSKS is based on the philosophy that helping street children requires offering them choices within their environment and assisting them to make their own decisions which will in time lead away from the street. The mistaken belief that rescuing street children involves removing them from the street as quickly as possible often does more harm than good, resulting in failed rehabilitation and a return to the street.

The main aim of the program therefore is to empower the children through an understanding of the underlying causes of their present situation. In this way, they consciously achieve a greater degree of self reliance and independence, which in turn may lead to a self-motivated choice to leave the street behind.

The programme supports street children with both material and information services, by providing schooling, counselling and income generating activities - shelter is provided for the most vulnerable - so that the opportunity to work and progress beyond the street can be realised.

The first stage of the CSKS programme is to make contact with children on the street in catchment areas such as major bus and rail stations, the city's main stadium and large market areas. These are the areas where the largest number of children congregate to work as coolis, street vendors, beggars and so on.

A 'street-link' is established by volunteers through regular interaction with children as they go about their daily activities. The 'street link promoter' becomes a focal point or axis for bringing children together and encouraging them to attend informal gatherings at the 'intermediary base' where the next stage of the programme is undertaken.

Intermediary base activities are designed to consolidate street level links. Children gather at whatever open space is available within the catchment area for social and recreational activities, to meet and interact with each other on a regular basis.

Here, a 'school under the sky' is established to teach basic literacy and numeracy skills, leading on to vocational classes such as carpentry and tailoring. Classes are taught by volunteers, and often older children also partake in 'child to child' teaching of vocational skills.

One such intermediary base is a unique 'floating' boat school providing non formal schooling for the children.

A 'crisis centre/overnight shelter' has been established in each catchment area. After the intermediary stage, children are invited to spend the night for security, or to use the shelter as a 'drop in' centre in time for crisis or need.

Health clinics, and counselling are also provided by the volunteer staff, and the shelter is manned 24 hours a day for crisis purposes.

No child is compelled to say at the shelter. Some children may never venture further than the intermediary base, preferring to live on the street, though benefiting from the outdoors base activities. Others may spend the occasional night at the shelter. However, the physical, mental and emotional security which the shelter offers entices many children on a long term basis.
Here, schooling and vocational classes continue to be held in the evenings while the children continue to work in the day.

In terms of sanctuary preference is given to girls. One of the greatest challenges is to prevent abduction by pimps who profit by the prostitution of girls, some as young as eleven, on the streets and in brothels.

Another major challenge is protecting the children from police brutality and extortion, which occurs on a regular basis. With little intervention from the community, which also shows hostility or contempt to children, they must deal with such harassment alone on the streets.

Children are encouraged, and in fact prefer, to pay for and help in the provision of meals, furnishing of their shelter, etc. in this way they retain their valuable independence and achieve a greater sense of self reliance and self esteem.

Perhaps most importantly, the programme provides a place where the children can talk about their past and present lives and bout their future hopes, about the dangers they face and the rights which they may realistically exercise on the streets. In short, it offers them a voice.