labour-kenya

What was your first job? Mine was working at the local bakery, rocking the trendy combination of enormous maroon shorts teamed with a white collared shirt. I was 16 years old, on minimum wage but I got to take home all the unsold bakery goods at the end of the day. Great for my family, not so great for my waistline!

In Kibiku, Kenya, Victor is a 16-year-old skilled stone cutter with 12 years of experience under his belt. Born to parents struggling to make a living from cutting stone in the local quarry, Victor started working at just four years old. At an age when most children in the UK are attending their first year of school, Victor was making gravel to help his family earn money.

By the age of six, Victor was working 13 hours shifts every day along with his parents. Together, his whole family earned just £2.50 a day for their efforts. This meant there was only enough money for one meal a day and no chance of going to school. Fine dust covered his face and affected his lungs, causing regular coughing fits. When the weather became hot and humid, Victor experienced dizzy spells and nose bleeds.

Victor’s father, Jeremiah, says “I wished that we didn’t have to do this type of work, but the choice was to either stay hungry and get locked out of our house or have Victor learn the trade and contribute to the family as soon as possible.”

“I didn’t like working at the quarry,” says Victor. “It was hard work and I couldn’t play with my friends.”

labour-kenya

Victor’s story is unfortunately not unique. There are an estimated 2 million child labourers throughout Kenya. However at the age of six, Victor was sponsored through the local Compassion project. He received a school uniform and started to attend school. Through the provision of food and medical check-ups, his health vastly improved. Most importantly, he learnt about Jesus and the hope He brings.

Despite losing out on Victor’s contribution at the quarry, Jeremiah is seeing his son’s future taking shape. “Victor makes us very proud. Because the project takes care of his education, it lifts a huge burden from our shoulders, and he doesn’t need to work at the quarry anymore.”

Today, Victor is now in his second year of high school and hopes to become a scientist.

No four-year-old should be working. But the sad reality is that throughout the world, there are many. By sponsoring a child through Compassion, we’re making a difference together, one child at a time. For every story of despair, there is now a story of hope. And for Victor, he is breaking free from extreme poverty into a future filled with hope.

Words by Roz Walsh with Silas Irungu