Dashed dreams – Child labour to 'make ends meet'


IT WAS his first meet-up with his cousin Matthew for the year and he was eager to tell him about the remote-controlled airplane he got for Christmas. But just as he opened his mouth to call out to him, he was awakened by the boisterous crow of the rooster at 5 am, his daily alarm clock.

As his eyelids raised, he heard his father shouting, “Sam, we go be late.” This was when reality set in – he had been dreaming.

His day typically started with trips to the standpipe to fill water for everyone at home. His dipped excitement cranked right back up from the sounds of an aircraft which beat steadily on his eardrum. He searched through the clouds relentlessly for the airplane and when it appeared he waved as though he could be seen miles below.

He muttered to himself, “don’t worry Sam, one day you will fly that plane.” His fascination was cut short as his father hurried him along with the buckets. On his way back, he saw children clad in uniform heading to school, their faces drab perhaps because of their early rise to beat the morning traffic.

Sam couldn’t understand how they were so fortunate to go to school yet appeared so dismayed. He longed to return to school from which he dropped out when his mom became ill during pregnancy. His dad had to take care of him, aged eleven, and his siblings, one, three and five.

Three of them sold water with their father on the highway as there was no one to look after them. Thereafter, Sam worked tirelessly in a garage until 6 pm without proper meals or breaks. He knew to himself that this was not right but he was determined to work to help pay for his mom’s treatment and look after his family’s welfare; this kept him going.

He hoped that one day his father would be able to send him back to school and he would become a pilot. Unfortunately for Sam, that day never came.

This tale is based on real life situations of children in TT who live each day as child labourers.

While we feel it is not our business to intervene, but instead purchase from them or employ them, these acts of sympathy are not long-term remedies. Look at Sam. He was unable to pursue his dream of becoming a pilot because what Sam thought would have been for a short time became his life, and that of his siblings.

No child below age 16, despite their circumstances, should drop out of school to work. Children deserve an equal opportunity to choose their future.

When you see children like Sam, your choice should be to help them. Contact the Labour Inspectorate Unit, Ministry of Labour at 299-0300 option 3 or ChildLine at 131 or 800-4321. Provide information to afford the family the support services needed.

Written by the Ministry of Labour, submitted by the Counter Trafficking Unit (CTU), Ministry of National Security.


"Dashed dreams – Child labour to 'make ends meet'"

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