Sonia* is like any other teen her age. She is a bright child who easily makes friends, likes to go to movies, takes part in sports, and she loves art and craft.

But eight years ago, life for young Sonia was not this secure. Sonia had grown up calling the dangerous streets of Turbhe which harbours the infamous red-light area, her home.

Born to a mother who had lived all her life in the flesh trade, Sonia would be left for long hours unattended, even her food and shelter not provided for! She remembers her father often beating up her mother and one day abandoning the family to marry another woman.

The situation took a turn for the worse when her mother fell sick. Unable to carry out her business, the flow of the money started thinning out. Desperate for her child’s wellbeing and a safe future, Sonia’s mother approached Sahaara, to find a safe home for Sonia.

This is the reality of many underprivileged children living in our country today. According to a report by World Bank Group and Unicef, India is home to over 30% of children living in extreme poverty, the highest in South Asia.

Sahaara runs a home – Anandalay, which shelters vulnerable girls, and help them grow holistically in a family environment and integrate them as they become responsible and positive contributors to society.

Soniya moved into our home when she was 8 years old. Today she attends one of the best schools in the locality. She also gets help with her studies. We are witnessing Sonia growing into a smart, intelligent responsible girl.

When asked what she would like to become, she answered “I want to be successful in life and take care of my mother. I want to study as much as possible and get a respectable job. I also want to help the ladies in the red-light areas and support their children.”

Anandalay serves as a place of safety for many such vulnerable girls who are left in the dark.

*Name changed to protect identity