Jaraj stands in a vast quarry, squinting against the blinding white stones. Every day, his ears ring with the sound of metal sledgehammers against the rocks. Every night, his arms ache from the jarring work. And every moment, he dreams of a different future for his daughter, Soundarya.
“Although I am trapped and bound to repay my debt, working in this quarry, I have one hope: My daughter will not face this,” he says.
Soundarya was born into a family in India caught in a web of desperate poverty. Her parents are bonded servants to a forbidding owner of a rock quarry. Day in and day out, they toil for endless hours, breaking rocks with a sledgehammer in the futile effort to pay off an ever-increasing debt.
Although bonded labor was outlawed in India in 1976, there is little enforcement of these human rights laws. Activists estimate that millions of Indian laborers remain trapped in a cycle of debt, which leaves them at the mercy of their employers.
These laborers spend their lives working in brick kilns, rock quarries, rice mills, farms, and factories. They do not have the knowledge or resources to leave or demand recognition of basic rights. It is difficult to pin down accurate numbers of bonded laborers in India, as these workers are constantly on the move and their employers have learned to hide their criminal activities. Human Rights Watch estimates India has 40 million bonded laborers, of whom 15 million are children.
Cycle of Suffering
For parents like Soundarya's, even worse than this slave labor is the knowledge that their debt will be passed on to some of their children, then to their children, in a never-ending cycle of suffering.
It is for children like Soundarya that the Compassion Child Sponsorship Program exists. This program brings the support, love and prayers of people like you into their lives.
“My sponsor’s name is Jeannie Canwell, and she is from America,” says Soundarya. “My sponsor and I have never seen each other. She has seen my photograph, she knows my name, she tells her friends about me, and loves me even though we’ve never met.”
“She will not break stones.”
Soundarya has been released from the bonds of the slavery that entangles so many in her community. She dreams of being a software engineer when she grows up. And her father sees in his daughter a bright future, far from the quarry.
“My wife and I love our daughter very much,” says Jaraj. “She is doing very well in her education… and we are very proud of her. I don’t know what she’ll do when she’s older, but I’m sure God has a plan for her, that He will give her a big future. I’m sure she will not break stones.”