“That brick is way too heavy for you. If you drop it, you’ll really hurt your foot!”
That’s what I’d say to my three-year old son, if he tried to lift something like this. Yet Salay carries hundreds of huge bricks every day in the Cambodian factory where he works. Not only does no one stop him, he’s reprimanded if he slows down. If Salay doesn’t carry those bricks, his family can’t pay their debt. They lose everything.
Over the years of my work at World Vision, I’ve seen many photos of children working in unthinkable conditions, just to survive. It’s hard not to call out in disbelief.
“He’s only three years older than my son, and he’s standing so dangerously close to that furnace!”
“That hole is so dark you can’t see the bottom. How can anyone send a child down there?
“Please don’t let it be that she is forced to have sex with grown men.”
Dirty, dangerous and degrading
These children are the reason I’ve come to Cambodia and Thailand. I’ll be driving across both countries, meeting children who work in jobs that are dirty, dangerous and degrading.
World Vision has just launched a three-year campaign aimed at helping end child slavery. Here in Canada, the toughest job many kids do is to clean their room. Yet these children are fighting each day just to keep body and soul together. And they have no choice but to continue.
This trip will be tough-going. In my work with World Vision, I have seen children on the brink of starvation, or battling deadly diseases. This is horrifying enough. But quite honestly, I don’t know how I’m going to react to seeing a ten-year-old girl standing on the street, made up like an adult, waiting for the next travelling sex offender to come along. I think there will be a lot of tears and outrage on my end.
How do we stop it?
What I most want to know is what we as Canadians can do to stop the exploitation of children through these brutal jobs. Most of us would never tolerate it here; one such story would be all over the newspapers. So why do we let child slavery go on in other countries? Do these children not matter?
I want to understand how we, all of us, are part of the problem of child slavery, and how we can help solve it for good. We need to know how the choices we make, both as individual Canadians and as a country, keep children like Salay in bondage. How can we change our buying habits and our policies to give children like him a different kind of life?
As Canadians, we have to lift our voices to make a difference. We can’t just look at the photos and turn away. I invite you to track with me in my travels this week, as I meet these children in person and learn how we can connect our lives with theirs.
By Caroline Riseboro – VP, Marketing and Communications