Until a few years ago, Heena Khan, Shadab Tamboli, Atul Singh and Saddam Hussain could be found begging, abusing drugs, or picking scrap on city streets. On Saturday, they will be among the 3.8 lakh students appearing for their SSC exams.
The four have similar stories. Saddam came to Mumbai at the age of eight after running away from his home in West Bengal, took to begging to buy drugs, and battled intestinal tuberculosis.
Heena, orphaned at a young age, ran away from her abusive sister in Karnataka and came to the city as a 10-year-old. To feed her drug habit, she picked scrap.
The four of them lived a life of dependence and depravity until they were found by Support, a non-profit organisation that helped them give up drugs.
“I have a new lease of life,’’ said Saddam, 17.
“I was my worst enemy. I gave up drugs after joining school,” said 18-year-old Heena.
The children stay at Support’s Santacruz residential facility.
“Our staff urges runaway children to give up drugs and join school,” said Hoshang Irani, trustee.