© Sara Cameron Links | Terms and conditions
Originally produced for UNICEF
I make shoes in Mirpur at a small workshop owned by my uncle. I can make one pair of shoes in about two hours. I can make any kind of shoe if I have the design. I get Tk100 for 12 pairs
I used to live in Shreepur village. Our house was in a cluster of homes near the river. The land around was flat and full of mustard, corn and wheat. There were cows and goats and chickens. I knew all the kids living around there. My friends were Imdad, Jubaid, Rubel, Modina, Jashim and Habsa. We used to swim in the river and fish and sail in small boats. We used to have a lot of fun, but then my family got into difficulties over a loan. We tried selling our land and selling roshogolla, which are small sweet snacks, dipped in sugar but we couldn’t make enough money. Eventually, my father sold a big tree on our land for Tk2000 and we used the money to bring him, my brother and me to Dhaka. My mother and all the other younger kids stayed at home.
I was so excited about coming to the city. I ran around telling all my friends. Hey! I’m going to Dhaka! But when the day came and we went to get the bus I looked back as long as I could. My mother was crying and I was crying too. I was 10 years old.
It took all day to reach the city and when I saw it I couldn’t believe it. I never saw such big buildings, or so many cars and trucks and rickshaws. I asked my dad who lived in those high buildings and he said human beings like us lived there. I wanted to go to the top and look out but he said the security guard would stop us.
We stayed with my aunt for a while but then my dad found a job for me as a domestic servant. I didn’t like it because it was women’s work. My uncle had a shoemaking workshop where my brother was working. I begged to go and work there and finally they agreed – but my dad couldn’t find any kind of work so he went back to Shreepur.
I worked every day nearly all day but then I heard about the Hard to Reach school and I really wanted to go. I started crying and crying. “I want to go I want to go.” I wept so much that in the end my uncle agreed, “If he wants it so much then he should go.”
His uncle says, “ I am a member of the CMC. If I see children playing around in the street I stop and tell them “why don’t you go to school.” I also tell the parents that they are setting a bad example by letting their kids just hang around. It would be easier if we all sent our children to school.
“I see a lot of change in Al Amin since he started going to the Hard to Reach centre. He keeps himself clean. He wears sandals when he goes to the toilet. He clips his nails. Before he never used to bother about these things. He didn’t even wash his hands before eating food.
“I went to grade 4 at school but my wife never did. She has been inspired by Al Amin though and now she is going to adult literacy classes and is learning to sign her name.”
Top, Al Amin at work; above, Al Amin’s uncle who is also his employer and proud of the work they do together.
|Out of War|
|Papua New Guinea|