When members of Grace Care Center, a ministry and refuge for street children in Dehli, India, found Ahil, he was sick, his legs were swollen and he was so thin he looked like he hadn’t eaten in weeks.

His life was one of extreme poverty, begging daily for food and handouts. He lived in a small hut made of plastic sheets with his younger brother and sister and a father who was dying from tuberculosis. The disease had already claimed his mother’s life.

Grace Care Center took in all three children and provided them a home and food to eat. Shelter workers took their father to a hospital to be treated for his disease.

Six months later, Ahil’s father had recovered and was able to go back to work as a rickshaw puller. After a few years, he remarried and his new wife told the children to return home.

But Ahil and his siblings didn’t return to a happy home. His father and step-mother planned to send the kids to factories to work to help the family, said John P. Kalathil, Grace Care Center director. Ahil was sent to a steel company in Mumbai to work night and day, even in scorching temperatures of 113 degrees.

Without his parent’s knowledge, Ahil hopped a train and returned to the shelter where he felt cared for and loved and where he was fed.

He begged to stay and the shelter honored his wishes. Ahil is now becoming a young man with big dreams to go back and help his family, not as a child laborer, but as an adult capable of making a real difference.

As many as 18 million children live on the streets of India and many orphans turn to a life of crime to survive, according to the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Grace Care Center is doing what it can to give as many of these kids as possible futures full of potential.

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