Antidote for Nausea

It had been rough going for nearly two hours. Cavernous potholes. Broken asphalt. Gritty litter. No shade in sight. We were sweating, despite the full-blast air con.

Hundreds of smokestacks as far as the eye could see. An apocalyptic landscape.

I glanced over at David. I recognized that look. Ashen face. Eyes closed. Head tilted back. I expected we’d soon have to pull over so he could throw up.

I thought he was carsick. But the cause was much deeper….

We arrived. Our host warned, “Take care, the stairs are very uneven.” They were. But as we climbed, we entered into another world. Ubiquitous dirty brown blossomed into color.

David made a remarkable recovery. Later he confided, “I was picturing the misery of the kids in those factories and it made me sick.”

Each of those nearly 300 towering smokestacks marks a brick factory. With an average of 40 boys per factory, that multiplies to a mind-boggling 12,000 child laborers.

Robbed of their childhood, they sleep by the dozens on factory floors far from their village families.

They’re in constant danger. One died last week in a kiln accident. Another lost his fingers to a brick-cutting machine.

So why his quick recovery this time?

Because we found hope.

As we wound up those uneven stairs, hope was revived. First, by brightly painted colors. Then, by gently whirring fans. Finally, by a joyful welcome to join the fun!

At the top of those stairs, we meandered from group to group of children, ages six to eleven. Quietly enraptured by a story reading. Or carefully constructing arches with blocks. Or busily solving jigsaw puzzles and math problems.

Order out of chaos. Beauty out of ashes. Strength out of weakness. It all starts with an invitation to be a child again, dispelling despair with a chance to hope again.

This not just a children’s center. It’s a doorway to a different world. To dignity with responsibility. To firmness with kindness. To a future of hope emerging out of this present misery.

That’s what dreamers do. They often cannot change the hard places. But they can bring about a different way of thinking and living inside hard places.

The woman giving birth to this children’s initiative is just that kind of dreamer. She started work at age six as a recycling sorter. But then she learned the power of hope.

Her loving grandfather insisted that she go to school. Empowered by her faith and education, she resolved to stay put for others who suffer with no way out.

The plight of these child laborers in brick factories galvanized her to action. She organized reading and math classes for practical skills. Plus she added hands-on play with puzzles and games to spark their creativity. One by one, her pupils studying during factory off-hours are passing national exams!

 

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