Aja’s Story :: Free From a Future of Slave Labor

According to a report by Human Rights Watch1, more than 15 million children in India are bonded laborers. They are forced to work long hours in harsh conditions with little care given for their well being or their future. Many children are there simply because they are working alongside a desperate parent who is trying to eke out one meal a day for the family.

Aja* is one of those children. She had no hope for escaping poverty’s fierceness and bonded labor—until she came to live in the As Our Own family at Grace Home.

Trouble compounded for Aja’s family when the cruelty of poverty and the lure of drugs collided. The hopelessness of poverty pushed her father under influences offering false peace. Aja’s mother tried to reason with him, but he would not relent. He left his wife and family for his addiction.

Without her father to provide for the family, Aja depended upon her mother, who found work with a labor contractor. That sounds good from an American perspective, but in India, some contractors demand more than just the harsh construction work: They also take physical advantage of women with no other job to turn to. This is what happened to Aja’s mom. And because childcare isn’t an option for the extremely poor, while Aja’s mom worked, she and her brother worked right alongside her. (Even today, Aja’s rough skin patches and sun damage are evidence of this cruel treatment.)

This darkness and hopelessness continues from one generation of contracted laborers to the next, so Aja’s life was on track to match her mom’s—unless someone intervened. That’s when As Our Own stepped in through one of our Lighthouse Centers. We were able to welcome Aja and her brother into our family. In addition, we were able to help Aja’s mom by finding her a proper job in a safe setting.

It’s now been five years since Aja and her brother were rescued from bonded labor. Now, secure in the Grace Home family, Aja is free from a future of slave labor.

1. US Dept. of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, 1999, 25 February 2000

*All names are pseudonyms

7 / 1 / 2011