A few months ago, Railway Children was invited by the producers behind the Hollywood film Lion to be its charity partner for the #LionHeart Campaign. The campaign's aim is to raise awareness and funds for non-profit organisations in India helping children like Saroo, the star of the film, who live in poverty on the streets away from their families.
Not surprisingly, we were thrilled to be asked to join up with such a high profile film and star studded cast that included Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman, who has already donated $10,000 to the cause. Producers and distributors of Lion have also pledged to match funds raised.
Railway Children is a grassroots organisation that has been working to deliver positive change for over 20 years and the support from this campaign has been a welcome boost to our fight for vulnerable children who live alone at risk, suffering abuse and exploitation on the streets of India.
The film tells the true story of five-year-old Saroo Brierley, who gets lost on a train which takes him thousands of miles across India, away from his home and family. Saroo's story is not unique - there are over 11 million children living on the streets of India, with more than 80,000 going missing each year.
There's a seamless connection between the story of Saroo and the reality of what we do every day at Railway Children, making the campaign a valuable opportunity to raise awareness and offer everyone who goes to see the film a tangible response to the problems they see on screen.
In India, we provide food, shelter, safety and support. We work at major railway stations where our outreach workers find vulnerable children before an abuser can. We try to reunite children with their families and if that's not possible, we find them a long-term solution like placement in care homes. Above all, Railway Children makes sure things change so children never have to go back to the streets.
A spokesperson for Lion recently said they were extremely proud to have brought Saroo's story to life for audiences around the world, but they didn't want the journey to end there, hoping that the power of this film would help bring about real impact in the lives of those Indian children who, like young Saroo, need assistance.
And that is the real world challenge we so often face as a charity. The spontaneous public support for the #LionHeart campaign has exceeded expectations. But after Lion has its final showing and Hollywood has moved onto its next big film, our task will be to translate this wonderful, albeit short-term, 'splash' into a key catalyst for positive, long-term change.
Which is why it matters so much each time a cinemagoer is galvanized into action after seeing a film like Lion, as it brings us a little closer to the 250,000 street children we hope to reach in India over the next 10 years. The real world is not prone to Hollywood endings, but this would without doubt be a giant step in the right direction.
For more information on how to support the campaign go to #LionHeart Campaign