Growing up, the summer holidays were a chance to relax. I’d spend days cycling with my dad, climbing trees in the park or playing on the beach.
But not all children have these opportunities.
Take 9-year-old Brayan for example. Last summer he was selling tortillas on the streets of El Viejo, Nicaragua. This wasn’t just a summer job. With his stepdad out of work, Brayan had no choice but to drop out of school and help contribute to the family’s income.
Sadly Brayan isn’t alone. Globally 168 million children, aged 5 to 17, are engaged in child labour. Their work exposes them to exploitative and hazardous environments, impacting their health, education and childhood.
The streets of El Viejo are no exception. Gang violence, petty theft and abuse are common place. Brayan himself was mugged and his earnings for that day stolen. Thankfully he wasn’t hurt, but he was left severely shaken by the experience. Despite these dangers, there was one place where Brayan felt safe.
Each day he would pass Rocío de Hermón, a local Compassion project. The staff got to know him and would invite him in to have a cold drink with other children. These moments provided a short break from his work. Seeing his situation, the project staff approached Brayan’s family and invited him to be enrolled in the programme. At first his mum was reluctant; she didn’t see an issue with Brayan working and feared losing his contribution to the family’s income. After two failed attempts to persuade her, the project staff held a time of prayer and fasting before approaching her a third time. This time she agreed and Brayan was registered.
Since then, Brayan´s mum has been attending monthly parenting sessions organised by the project and funded through RESPOND. Each month parents receive skills training, helping them identify and understand the risks of issues such as child labour, child abuse and child trafficking. Thanks to these sessions, little by little, Brayan´s home situation is improving. Sandra, the project director explains, “His parents no longer see the project as a hindrance for their income but as a blessing. Before Brayan didn’t have any time to just be a child. He was aggressive and thought that everyone was going to hurt him. Here (at the project) he has learned the opposite. He is loved and encouraged to succeed.”
With the project’s intervention, Brayan is back in school. He’s looking forward to his summer holidays (which run from December to January in Nicaragua) and the opportunity to play sport at the project. “I feel happy at the project, because I can play football with my friends,” says Brayan.
Thanks to RESPOND, vulnerable children like Brayan are protected. Whether that’s through educational sessions for parents, trauma counselling or foster care we go the extra mile for kids, so they have a safe environment where they can learn and develop without fear or abuse.
Find out more about RESPOND