By; Shiv Dev Singh
I woke up this morning and rolled over to my parents, woke them up and tried to find my way into the next room. Dark and dingy, the place where the 1 dresser that my siblings and I share lies, once I take out my clothes I change and head to work. My job takes me miles, it is a 50 mins walk. Just to get halfway, I then stop and pick up my 14 year old cousin who happens to be working at the same place as I do. As our feet carry us over the soon to be opening market the fresh smell of newly fried jalebi fills my brain making me think of nothing but. Although my cousin and I can’t afford to spend our hard earned money on jalebi the simple fulfilment of just smelling it gives me satisfaction. As we procrastinate getting to work, we eventually realise that we have no other choice, we can’t go to a friends house or to school, the construction sight is our only option. Now that we have reached and w have to work for the next 14 hours we await the long walk back. When my cousin and I head back home at night there are a few things that we have to do. When we reach home I grab the rusty handle of bucket which all 5 members of our ample family use to take a bath, another journey awaits, the one through the jungle and into the next village, and for what? To have a shower, all 5 of us. Being a child labourer is is having a parched life, while never quenching your thirst for learning, playing,guidance and well-being. Never having the opportunity to know yourself and your potential.
This is how a day to day life in a child labourer at a construction sight is. Yet this is the unfortunate reality of over 300 million children around the world, not just a few.
Sandy can’t see his hands in the darkness of his shack made from palm bark and zinc on a hillside in the Dominican Republic. But he feels them because of the pain from wounds on his left thumb caused by the knife he uses to trim garlic plants. It is dawn and he has to hurry if he is to get a place in the landowner’s truck. He jumps from the worn mattress that he shares with three other brothers. He doesn’t have breakfast, not because he does not want to but because there isn’t any. Nor does he wear working boots because he has none. When he leaves to fetch water he is never sure if there is going to be any, as he looks down at the bottom of the well he notices that the well is as dry as a bone.
He then proceeds to pick potatoes, extract onions, dig up lettuce, behead beets and cut and gather garlic bulbs. He knows that he can bring home between 80 and 90 pesos on a good day, or $3 to $5, to contribute to the low family income and to buy a pair of shoes. He works in the fields every day from dawn to the middle of the afternoon.His shoulder blades are chiseled from working and lifting heavy weights. His hands are rough, representing his job and his feet are filthy, because he can’t afford shoes.He stretches himself beyond he should and still receives $5 at the most for his work. It’s as though he has been working forever, day and night and yet never received nothing.
My name is Therese and I was an underaged labourer at a Lowell mill in Massachusetts. Like many before me and hopefully fewer after me. I was taken advantage of, not only paid to little but more importantly deprived from attending school. My parents Immigrated to The United States almost 18 years ago, they promised a new life, one completely different to the poor conditions they had lived in while in Ireland. A couple of months after my birth, my dad filed for bankruptcy and soon after committed suicide. When I reached the age of 13, my realised that her monthly wage was not enough. So I offered to help her, not assuming that it would be a temporary requirement lasting a couple of months to get my mom back on her feet. Though the money was helpful, we were still living paycheck to paycheck. Which required me to work at a mill in Massachusetts for a long term job.
Now that I am 36 years old and my mom and I have moved down to Florida. I don’t regret joining the labour force of the mills at such an early age, although I have sleepless nights dreaming and envisioning what my childhood would have been like without working at such a young age. Becoming a child labourer feels like skipping 2 decades of your life and working all day. Sometimes I wonder how different it would be in another country.