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 labour 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 N.Z. $20].
There are thousands upon thousands of children like Lakshmi who are caught in bonded labour. They are not just numbers or statistics—they are real children. Though nameless 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 labourers 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, and their bodies can be crippled from carrying heavy weights.
Bridge of Hope ministers to children at risk of becoming bonded labourers because of their family's desperate poverty. But that's only a small percentage of children who are at the centres.
Every child enrolled in Bridge of Hope comes from a family too poor to afford a proper education or the supplies needed to keep them in school. It is likely that a Bridge of Hope child is the first in their family to receive an education—and the hope that they can one day escape the suffocating grip of poverty.
I remember going into the slums of Mumbai and being devastated.
—K.P. Yohannan, Director, GFA World
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