The Indian newspaper giving street children a voice

Reporters Deepak and Joti examine an early edition of Balaknama, a newspaper by street children in Delhi.

New Delhi (CNN)Shambhu's days start early.

At 6 a.m., he leaves his house in a slum in western New Delhi and heads to a more affluent area where he washes cars for three hours, for which he earns about $50 a month.
After a morning of work, he heads to a learning center to study for a few hours. Most 17-year-olds would probably be at school all day, but circumstances have dictated otherwise for Shambhu, who goes by only one name.
    He is from Biraul, a village in Bihar, one of India's poorest states. When he was 9, he moved to the capital to help his father serve cucumbers.
      In Biraul, Shambhu attended a government school, but "it was useless, we didn't learn anything," he said.
      It wasn't until he began going to the learning center in Delhi that he learned to read and write.
      He also discovered what has become a major passion of his -- journalism. Through the learning center, he heard about Balaknama, a newspaper run by street children.
        Shambhu still washes cars every morning to help his family earn a living.

        Speaking out

        Balaknama means "voice of the children" in Hindi. Shambhu, a lanky, bright-eyed teenager, is its editor.
        "Earlier the people here just knew me as 'Shambhu the boy who washes my car' but since they learned about Balaknama, the lady who lives here, the doctor who lives above, they all call me 'editor sir'," he told CNN in the newspaper's offices.
        "Every month, when we publish a new edition of the newspaper, I distribute it to all the houses here and a lot of people also donate money."
        The paper is priced at a nominal 5 rupees, less than 10 cents, but is mainly given out for free at police stations and through NGOs working with street children.
        Circulation stands at about 8,000, the bulk of which is the Hindi edition, according to Sanjay Gupta, director of Childhood Enhancement Through Training and Action (CHETNA), an NGO set up in 2002 that funds the newspaper.
        "When we first started Balaknama, CHETNA would offer guidance as well as financial support, but now it is run independently by the children. Today, we are just the mentor organization, we provide encouragement, funding and our team translates the Hindi edition into English," said Gupta.
        In recent months, they have also started publishing articles to over 5,000 readers via WhatsApp and email.
        From left: Balaknama reporters Shambhu, Chetan, Deepak and Joti

        Raising awareness

        According to a 2011 survey by Save the Children, there are more than 50,000 street children living in Delhi.
        Half of them are illiterate, while a staggering 87% are forced to earn a living working as rag pickers and street vendors or by begging.
        An estimated 50% of street children have suffered verbal, physical or sexual abuse, the survey found.
        Balaknama is intended to raise awareness of issues faced by street and working children. Like Shambhu, many of the core team of nine reporters had barely gone to school before joining the newspaper.
        "The stories are chosen based on how much awareness they raise over the issues the kids face," Shambhu said.
        One such recent story is the case of children forced to work in the production and supply of bootleg liquor. "They're 10 to 15 years old and they're drinking themselves and becoming alcoholics," he said. "So I feel it's our duty to talk about this and turn it into a social cause."
        Shambhu and his team aren't paid for their work but they are given travel and food allowances when out in the field.

        Reporting