Remember your first job? Babysitting. Newspaper route. Flipping burgers. Millions of children worldwide are forced to forgo their educations and go to work — especially in the Asia-Pacific region. The region has the largest number of working children in the world and represents about 19% of the 650 million 5- to 14-year-olds in the region. In honor of World Day Against Child Labor, annually on June 12, view the following stories of how children have left their days of working behind, thanks to World Vision’s efforts toward ending child labor.
Bangladesh: Surrounded by his best friends, 10-year-old Hemel (center) makes his way home from school — a privilege he doesn’t take for granted. As a young boy, Hemel was enrolled in a local primary school but had to drop out due to his family’s financial hardships. He hung up his school uniform and went to work in a tea stall to support his family. But World Vision provided Hemel and his family new hope when they asked him to join Kerbari Nonformal Education Center. Hemel has since completed third grade and enrolled in fourth grade. He wants to be an officer of Bangladesh’s Rapid Action Battalion when he grows up.
Myanmar: Phoe Thar has grown up in poverty. His mother died, and his father is extremely ill due to alcoholism. Without income, the family is homeless, and Phoe Thar didn’t attend school. Instead, he spent his days searching for baskets to sell in the market so he could feed himself and his sister. Then one day he heard about World Vision’s drop-in center. There, he could get a meal and also learn how to read, write, and do basic math. With his father’s permission, he now stays at World Vision’s temporary shelter, where he is safe and gaining a basic education. He hopes to learn a vocational skill so he can have a different future than his father.
Cambodia: Saven Vong (left) forced her oldest son to quit school and work construction when he was 14. When Saven later got involved in a World Vision program, she realized her mistake. Luckily, her son returned to school, and at 23, he has earned a business degree and has an administrative job with a local company. Her youngest daughter, Soa (right), is excited to go to school. Saven now leads a self-help group in her community, educating others about children’s right to education — especially important in Cambodia, where 37% of children are involved in child labor.
Pakistan: Tanveer attended school until fourth grade, but — despite being a star student — his father couldn’t afford to pay for his school expenses. He sent Tanveer to work in a motorbike workshop instead, where he was ordered to do tasks he had no idea how to do. He cried and yearned to go back to school. World Vision started a child education project in the area, and Tanveer’s father attended a seminar to learn about the importance of education for children. He vowed to send his son back to school. Now, at 13, Tanveer is back in school and hopes to join the army after completing his education.
Bangladesh: 17-year-old Sharmin dropped out of school to help her mother make and sell cakes on the city roadside. Through the intervention of World Vision’s Empowering Working Children project, she has resumed her studies and is now in seventh grade. Sharmin feels blessed to get the chance to go to school again and is working hard to reach her dream of becoming a police officer.