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Two years ago, Bipul’s family was in such dire poverty that the young boy was forced to quit school and get a job to help them survive. Today, he’s sponsored through World Vision and back in class full-time instead of performing dangerous labor.
Eleven-year-old Bipul, now a World Vision sponsored child, is like most kids his age. He dreams of playing with friends and going to school.
But he’s different in at least one way: More than two years ago, he was forced to quit his studies to work in a garage. At a tender young age, he shouldered the responsibility of helping his family to earn money.
It was filthy, backbreaking labor in a sweltering bicycle repair shop. How he ended up there is an all-too-familiar story: His family suffered from crippling poverty, leaving him no choice but to work for their survival.
“My job is difficult and hard to do, and I don’t like it. I get very tired,” said Bipul at the time.
This was no exaggeration: Bipul worked 12-hour days, seven days a week, earning about U.S. $0.13 per day. The meager income had to go to his father — and when his 2-year-old sister became sick, the money went toward paying for her medicine.
Before dropping out of school for work, Bipul got good grades. His elder brother, Biplop, also studied at the same school.
But then things changed. Bipul’s father, the sole income-provider as a day laborer, could no longer meet the needs of the family. Immediate demands of food and adequate shelter eventually took priority over the children’s education. So Bipul’s father pulled his two sons out of school to make them work.
“Bipul and his brother have to work to help their parents and sibling survive,” said Sukhlal, Bipul’s father. “I earn very little…we are just getting by.”
Bipul worked at a motor-bike garage in a local town market north of Dhaka, the Bangladeshi capital. The market hosts more than 100 such garages, most using child labor.
But in 2012, Bipul’s life changed dramatically when World Vision volunteers came across several cases of child labor in the village during a standard monitoring visit. Bipul, then 10 years old, was one of these cases, and the volunteers brought it to the attention of World Vision staff. By then, he had become a sponsored child.
The staff members spoke with Bipul’s parents and explained the value of education. After their persistent efforts, Bipul’s parents finally agreed to send him back to school full-time. Now, he’s in third grade and again does well in his studies.
“I am so happy to be back in school,” he says. “At the garage, I used to work 12 long hours in the hot without much to eat. Now, I go to school for about five hours a day, and I am free to spend the rest of my time as I would like to.”
Bipul’s success story is attributable to World Vision’s work through its sponsorship program in his region. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, nearly 4 million children in Bangladesh between the ages of 5 and 14 are engaged in some form of work instead of going to school.
Many of them, like Bipul, are trapped in poverty and have no choice but to support their families. Their parents typically weren’t able to stay in school either and thus don’t recognize the value of education.
World Vision works to counter this trend in sponsorship communities by raising awareness of child rights. The organization also provides resources to help get children away from dangerous labor and back in class through assistance like tuition, clothing, school supplies, nutritional training, and agricultural support.
Many children who are forced to quit school for work are never given a chance to go back — a reality that Bipul acknowledges. He’s focused now on pursuing his dreams.
“I will study a lot and become a police [officer] in the future,” he says. “I have liked the idea since I was young, as I want to be able to help people.”
Meanwhile, Bipul’s parents are happy he is no longer working in the garage, and thanks to World Vision’s assistance, they’re also optimistic for their youngest child, Tasmia.
“I believe in fortune…fortune brought me here, so let it be,” says Bipul. “Thank you, World Vision.”