From danger to dreaming: Karan's story

Apr 26, 2017
By Jamir Tiatemjen ; Edited by Leanna Cappiello

Karan shares a one-room apartment with his mother. The space holds a kitchen and bedroom for both of them to sleep in, and they share a bathroom with other tenants. Since the passing of his father due to a terminal illness, 12-year-old Karan works to support his mom.

"Ever since my father passed away, I've started to work in a shoe factory nearby," says Karan, "We had to sell our home to pay for his treatment." Eventually, the illness retuned, but by then, we had no more money left to continue with his recovery." 

A day in the life of a shoe-shop worker is an average of eight to nine hours of labour each day. "If I don't work, we'll face many problems," says Karan, "we won't be able to pay the rent for the room and we will also not be able to pay for household expenses, like food."

His work usually involves sticking pieces of shoes together. The glue, has a very strong smell that makes him sick and dizzy when used for too many hours.

"I can't focus on work sometimes because of this, and the manager gets angry and shouts at me when I make mistakes," Karen says. "He scares me. I fear that my manager will get tired of scolding me and then fire me. How will I support my mother if I get fired?" There are many hazards to working in small spaces with toxic fumes.

But Karen has no choice but to work. He earns 100" 200 rupees ($1.51-3.02 USD) a week, which he gives to my mother to use for the house. To supplement Karan's income, his mother works as a nanny for a family in the community. But even with two incomes, it's not enough to sustain a decent life.

Karan misses the days when his father was alive and he was free to attend school and learn with his peers. "Learning was fun and I also had all my friends to play with. It makes me sad to work," he reminisces.

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Things changes when Karan started attending World Vision's remedial education centre. He started learning basic literacy and numeracy skills, including Hindi and mathematics. Not only does Karan get to attend school, but he has children his age that he can be friends with.

Every evening, the remedial centre offers life beyond work for Karan. There, he has the chance to build skills and learn often, which lifts his spirits. "I'll always be grateful to them." Karan says about the centre, "hopefully I can complete my education one day." His dream is to become a soldier so I can serve his country and help protect his people.

*Name changed to protect identity