Earning a Living at Age 7
When you are child, raised in a child-headed family, there are no age limits that prevent you from working to provide for your family. You learn how to collect firewood at 5am, getting enough for home use and enough to sell to sustain a living. It's not like adults who work according to the law or contract terms. They get specific days off work and holidays to spend with friends and family. People take vacations and travel away for refreshment and refilling. Under work contracts, there are terms and conditions that a person has to reach age of majority to work, sometimes requiring birth certificates to prove their age, just to make sure that they don’t break the Law. Earning money to provide for your siblings doesn't follow any rules and doesn't provide days off.
'At age of 7, I started going to the forest with my mother. She taught me how to take care of myself when I hear a strange voice or when there is a movement in a bush. Because of the season, it might be a time when elephants are going back to their settlements. It was really scary but since I was the only boy, I had to be strong to protect my mother.
After we come back from the forest, we packaged the firewood and priced it for $1-$2 USD each. Before we leave to sell the wood, my mother and I always drink our porridge. Sometimes we will only have left over food from the previous night. We need to eat so we have enough energy to carry the firewood packages to the small town where we sell them.
We sell the best wood and keep this for cooking our food.
It takes 2 hours walking with a package of firewood on my head. Sometimes, I feel like there is fire burning on my head because of the pain. When the pain gets stronger, I take just a short break and cry silently in a hidden bush pretending like I am going to the bathroom. I have to protect her from seeing my tears.
When I think of my 2 younger brothers and 1 sister that I have to take care of I just wipe my tears, lift my package and tell her with smile, ‘Mama, let’s go we are almost there and today we are going to get $2! We will have enough to buy sugar for our porridge, I will get to buy work books for my sisters and we can save a little for my brother’s medical bills when the doctors release him from hospital after suffering from Pneumonia that he got from the forest.
I am wondering why my father left. He should be the one to protect her, but he never took care of us. From what I remember, he used to be out all night and not come back home until morning when we are coming back from the forest. He was always smiling because he knows that he will get money from our firewood sales to buy more alcohol.
I am a child with a parents’ responsibilities for my family. I know there are other children who are working hard for their family and sometimes, like me, they forget about their dreams when they are forced to quit school to provide for their family.'
Together, we can help these children, who at age 7, worry about earning a living for their siblings and the danger of elephants in the forest instead of focusing on small chores and doing well in school with their friends.
When you give to Food for His Children, you protect vulnerable children from child labor and human trafficking and you empower them be all God created them to be.
*This story is an example of what it's like as a child who needs to work to provide for their family instead of going to school. It's part of a series to create awareness of what it's like to be an orphan or a child at risk of being an orphan.