Nine-year-old Lakshmi works in a factory as a cigarette roller. She tells her sister's story:
My sister is 10 years old. Every morning at 7 she goes to the bonded labor man, and every night at 9 she comes home. He treats her badly. He hits her if he thinks she is working slowly, or if she talks to the other children, he yells at her. He comes looking for her if she is sick and cannot go to work. I feel this is very difficult for her.
I don't care about school or playing. I don't care about any of that. All I want is to bring my sister home from the bonded labour man. For 600 rupees I can bring her home—that is our only chance to get her back.
We don't have 600 rupees…we will never have 600 rupees [the equivalent of U.S. $14].
The millions of children in Asia who are caught in bonded labor are not just numbers or statistics—they are real children. Though nameless and faceless on the streets where they live, each one was created with love and is known by God.
It is doubtful they've ever held a toothbrush or a bar of soap; they've probably never eaten an ice-cream cone or cradled a doll. The child laborers of Asia toil in fireworks, carpet and match factories; quarries and coal mines; rice fields, tea plantations and pastures; and even brothels. Because they are exposed to dust, toxic fumes, pesticides and disease, their health is compromised; their bodies are crippled from carrying heavy weights.