The founder of Railway Children has been honoured almost 20 years after setting up the international safeguarding charity.
David Maidment launched the charity in 1995 after witnessing first hand the appalling conditions homeless children have to endure on India’s railway stations.
Railway Children now has a network of 24 partner organisations across Africa, Asia and the UK, and in 2011, supported more than 25,000 street children worldwide.
David was honoured at the RailStaff Awards 2012, which was held at the ICC in Birmingham on Saturday, October 20.
“I just wish that the little girl that I met on Bombay station 20 something years ago realised what she caused. What she was the catalyst for,” said David.
“Big thanks really to the railway industry I suppose over the years we must have raised something like £18 million and at least half of that has come from people within the railway industry, and not only that, the support I had right from the word go.
“The people who have gone up the Three Peaks, the people who give their time to do that it’s quite incredible.
I just wish that the little girl that I met on Bombay station 20 something years ago realised what she caused. What she was the catalyst for.
“I was scared stiff when I started. This was before the days of corporate social responsibility. A lot of companies do it now, but in those days I thought they’d think I’d gone soft in the head because I was quite emotional about what I’d seen.”
A new award has been launched for the 2013 RailStaff event in David’s honour. The David Maidment Charity Award will be open to any rail employee who has done something amazing for their chosen charity.
Speaking shortly after the presentation, David described the moment he met a seven-year-old girl in Calcutta as one of the most memorable moments of his time with the charity.
He said: “Years ago I was taken to a station in Calcutta and the local community had found 30 young girls sleeping rough on the station – the youngest was four, the oldest was 13 – they’d all been molested, sexually abused, and the partner organisation had managed to persuade a local school to loan us a classroom. We hired two social workers to act as aunties for these girls and the girls would come in at 6pm every night and they would get a hot meal and clean clothes and they could stay safely overnight.
“When we opened there were a lot of boring speeches by elderly men in a language I didn’t understand and one of the little girls just came out, she was seven years old, she just plonked herself in my lap and fell asleep. They told me she worked eight hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year fetching and carrying water for the local slum community and she used to get given one rupee a day – 1.2 pence a day – and she had to survive on that. We managed to get her off the street into school.
“A couple of years back, she’s now a 17-year-olod school girl, she sent us an email to our office thanking us for giving her her childhood back. Now that kid is just a symbol of what I hope we’ve achieved in many cases.”