“There was a time when I used to forage dustbins for food because I was starving. But today, I cook food for so many people,” says Lilyma Khan, a junior chef in an Italian restaurant in Delhi, India.
It is distressing, yet humbling, to learn about her experiences and how she made it out of a system that makes it nearly impossible for street children and the homeless to escape poverty. After years of abuse and humiliation as a ragpicker and a streetchild, Lilyma finally found shelter in Aman Biradari's Kilkari Rainbow Home in Kashmere Gate when she turned 14.
“That's where I got counseling, food, love, sisterhood, everything,” says Lilyma.
After completing her eleventh grade, Lilyma found support for an apprenticeship through the Creative Services Support Group, a charity that provided underprivileged youth with training in creative sectors.
Rukaiya, who was Lily’s house-mother in Kilkari Home mentions how Lily felt dejected working in the predominantly male-dominated kitchen spaces or got upset over being rebuked. “I used to tell her that one day she will become a great person. She did not lose hope and has made so much progress,” she adds.
“I had never heard the words European or Italian…And going from a slum to walking into a fancy restaurant, there was always a feeling of fear inside,” says Lily. “That fear has disappeared now.”
“A lot has to do with her personality,” says Suroor Mander, advisor of the Delhi Rainbow Homes program. “Lilyma is motivated, she worked hard and became this person. Lily always quotes Rainbow Homes very fondly but it’s also very much about her.”