From an early age, I knew that I wanted to help change the world.
As a young girl, I traveled with my father around the country and eventually around the globe. I dreamed of the places I could one day go and the people I could help. As I grew up, my parents invested in my future and in my dreams, and it is because of them that I get to be part of a humanitarian aid organization like World Help.
But not every child gets a chance like that. In fact, in poverty-stricken communities worldwide, children as young as 5 years old are forced to spend their days working in fields or factories.
They should be in school. They should be dreaming about what they want to be when they grow up. Instead, they are overworked and underpaid, forced to watch as their dreams — and their childhood — slip away.
We don’t hear much about child labor these days. It’s incredible to think that in today’s world it still exists! So, it may come as a surprise to you that right now, 152 million children are suffering as child laborers.
That’s 152 million children who aren’t receiving a regular education. That’s 152 million children who are doing work that is often far too taxing for their growing bodies. This is a massive problem, but it’s one that has a solution.
The United Nations has declared each June 12 as World Day Against Child Labor. The theme for this year is “Children shouldn’t work in fields, but on dreams!” The goal? To take steps toward eradicating child labor by reducing poverty and getting kids all over the world into schools.
At just 7 years old, Ruth has the sass and confidence of a much older child. When you look at her, you can’t help but think, “This little girl could change the world.” There’s just one problem. Ruth comes from Kikooba, Uganda — a poor community where most schools are far away and far too expensive.
Behind her bubbly smile is a life full of tragedy. Ruth’s parents never had educational opportunities, either. While struggling each day to make ends meet, her father grew angry and violent, often abusing Ruth’s mother. To keep the young girl safe, Ruth’s grandmother took her in. But while Ruth was out of physical danger, her future was still incredibly bleak.
Ruth’s grandmother couldn’t afford to send her to school. So, like many children in her village, Ruth knew she would have to go to work instead. In Kikooba, there aren’t many employment options for girls without an education. Most girls either work in the fields, marry at a young age, or eventually join the sex industry.
They do what they must to survive. But education changes everything.
That’s why Ruth and her grandmother were overjoyed when they learned that there was a new school in Kikooba; and, better yet, Ruth received a child sponsor who would help send her to that school!
Today, Ruth is excited to start every day. She rolls out of bed and pulls on her bright blue and yellow uniform instead of clothes for working in the fields. She grabs her books instead of a garden hoe. And she’s chasing her dreams instead of being paralyzed by poverty.
This is why World Help is so passionate about child sponsorship. Over the years, we have seen children grow up to become teachers, engineers, entrepreneurs, and even doctors — all because they were given a chance. And most of those children turn around and give back to their community.
When Ruth grows up, she dreams of becoming a teacher. She wants to do her part to help other little children succeed in school and escape a childhood in the fields.
On this World Day Against Child Labor, we can make that dream become a reality for children like Ruth around the world.
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Noel Yeatts is an active advocate for social justice and humanitarian needs around the world. With over 20 years of experience in humanitarian work, Noel is an author, speaker, and the President of World Help, an international, Christian humanitarian organization serving the physical and spiritual needs of impoverished communities around the world. Noel regularly takes the stage for speaking engagements and advocacy events around the country and has been widely recognized for her groundbreaking book, “Awake: Doing a World of Good One Person at a Time.”
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