In March, a Pakistani NGO handed out red, blue and green kites bearing photos of missing children and the date of their disappearance: "Youssaf, age 5, 08-05-2015," and "Rafia, age 3, 05-09-2014," read two of them. All were stamped with a number for a help hotline.
The campaign was carried out by Roshni Helpline, an NGO dedicated to missing children in Karachi, along with Y&R Singapore and Karachi-based Spectrum Y&R. Last year, 2,160 children disappeared in Karachi, Pakistan's biggest city, the NGO's president has said, adding that many of the children are ordered to go begging, get forced into sex work or are trafficked.
The NGO often puts missing children on posters but wanted to try something more attention-getting. For the annual Basant festival, when kites are often flown, the team handed out several thousand kites in a park in an area where children have disappeared. Kites have strong cultural resonance in Pakistan, and the event was covered in local print, radio and TV news.
On its Facebook page, the NGO has credited the campaign with helping find two children. It was not clear whether their faces were among those printed on the kites. In one case the campaign inspired a family to ask for help locating a child, and in another it may have led to an anonymous tip. (Y&R's case film, below, was made before the second child was found.)
One boy, 12-year-old Shahmir, was found within a week of the Kites of Hope event. The boy's relatives heard about Roshni Helpline through the event and reached out and offered details about the boy; the NGO traced him through a shelter for the destitute, a Y&R spokeswoman said.
Another child, 5-year-old Muzammil, had gone missing during a trip to the zoo last year. The organization received an anonymous tip in early June giving an address where the boy was seen. Police raided the house and recovered the child "despite strong resistance by a mob comprising 600-700 people," the NGO's Facebook account said, noting that arrests were made. (Roshni Helpline did not respond to messages seeking additional details.)
The NGO said another boy, 8-year-old Iftikhar, was located this week after 10 months missing; it isn't clear whether his recovery had any connection to Y&R's campaign. His parents reported him missing just before the Kites of Hope event, and a shelter that cooperates with the charity recently spotted him.