As a child I ran away from home once. I think I was about 8. I can’t remember the precise trigger but I was playing with my brother and sister in the back garden and something didn’t go my way. I remember feeling very hard done by when Mum didn’t take my side, and so I decided, on impulse, to run away. There’s a wooded area next to my parents’ house, and that’s where I headed. I crawled through the hedge and then sat in a pile of dry leaves just the other side of it to listen to what would happen when my family discovered I’d gone. I waited for what felt like hours but none of them seemed to notice my absence, to my great disappointment (although Mum told me years later that she’d known exactly where I was). Eventually I got bored and stomped back to join my family saying crossly: ‘I ran away and you didn’t even notice’, and then it was time for tea. Thankfully the next time I left home was about ten years later when my parents drove me to my University accommodation.
It’s estimated that 2000 children in the UK will run away for real over Christmas and that a child runs away from home or care every five minutes www.mumsnet.com/runningaway. Many of them are too scared or vulnerable to seek official help: Railway Children is an international charity which works to support and protect these children in the UK, India and Africa.
Kids run away from every kind of family – affluent or not – and their decision to leave is often impulsive and unplanned. They run away from problems at school or at home, sometimes from domestic violence or sexual abuse, or sometimes from bullying, relationship issues or even loneliness. The problem is that life on the street, with the risk of violence, abuse and sexual exploitation, can often be worse than life at home. Besides helping runaways, Railway Children works to educate under-16s about the risks of running away and help them find solutions to their problems.
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