I still remember the first time I went to the SPID-SMS Centre on GB Road in Delhi. Lalitha Nayak is the founder of the organization. Her journey began more than three decades ago when she visited Delhi’s red-light area to talk to sex workers. She saw children of those sex workers being beaten by the pimps.
A lot of those women pleaded with her to do something for their children. Eventually, this led her to establish a safe space that offers healthcare, education, and placement in residential schools. Open 24×7, Society for Participatory Integrated Developed- (SPID-SMS) is a safe, protected space for children.
Lalithaji is a shining example of resilience and commitment for many. Lovingly called ‘Madamji’ by thousands of women in Delhi’s red-light area, Lalitha has been extensively working to support the children of sex workers. She is putting them in schools and ensuring that their dignity of life continues. To do this, she has been talking to different stakeholders and organizations, who helped her enroll the kids in professional courses.
When I started my career as a young anti-trafficking activist in 2012, I was not aware that a shelter home was actively working in Delhi’s red-light area to stop second-generation prostitution and pimping. One of my friends told me about Lalithaji and her work. I was immediately interested after hearing about the place and decided to visit it.
The center was adjacent to a temple in GB Road. While entering, I saw some children running around the area. Kids as young as 3-year-old were crying and calling each other. It was a world in itself. There were drawings on the wall. A small computer room with two computers attracted my attention and made me wonder about the fact that despite all the hurdles, the lady was trying to teach computers to the kids.
Lalithaji welcomed me with folded hands. My curiosity got the better of me, and I asked her, “Ma’am, can I please look around the place if you do not mind?” I was almost half-expecting a cold denial as I was a first-time visitor to her centre. But to my surprise, she immediately agreed and asked one of the caretakers to give me a tour. There were a few rooms and a small kitchen. Even though she had a small space, she had managed to take care of more than 100 kids!
The place changed my perspective about life. I understood the dreams of the children staying there. They wanted to achieve something in life. They learned painting, computer, dance, music, games, etc. Even with its meagre resources, the centre had ensured there was no dearth of learning facilities for them. Most of the existing facilities were borne out of her personal investments.
Hundreds of kids could turn over a new leaf, and all accolades go to her for ensuring their bright futures. Remarkably, many of these children could make it big in life, and Lalithaji’s contribution in that regard is undeniable. The kids’ achievements proved that background does not matter if one has the zeal and the right support.