Rescued from Child Labor

Rescued from Child Labor

By: Jayaseelan Enos with Leura Jones, Contributing Writer   |   Posted: July 26, 2010

Two situations seemed inevitable for Hepsiba: child labor or becoming a street child.
The Leadership Development Program has given Hepsiba the leadership and communication skills she will need to serve in her community as a nurse.

Since she was in eighth grade, Hepsiba has wanted to be a nurse. Today, at 22, she is in her fourth year at Geethanjali College of Nursing in India.

"I am the first one to study nursing in my community," Hepsiba says with a deep sense of pride and achievement.

She plans to commit her life to serving the poor, those in her town who cannot afford expensive hospitals and doctors. At the same time, she wants to be able to shoulder the financial responsibility of her own family.

Growing Up in the Face of Danger

One of four children, Hepsiba grew up in a dusty neighborhood close to one of India's busy national highways. Many children have been victims of road-crossing accidents. Occasionally trucks veer off the road and smash into the crumbling homes. In addition to being a dangerous place to live, this community is unhygienic due to the traffic dust and the local mills that produce cotton, oil and rice. 

Hepsiba's mother works six days a week in a rice mill, earning 40 rupees per day (less than U.S.$1). Her father and brother work in a cotton mill, earning slightly more, but all of them work only seasonally. They are unemployed seven or eight months of the year. Both parents have medical problems, and Hepsiba's father is an alcoholic. "The little hard-earned money was wasted in buying alcohol," Hepsiba says with sadness.

Living in these conditions, without reliable water or knowing where their next meal would come from, educating their oldest daughter was the furthest thing from these parents' minds. But when they found out about an opportunity for her at the Immanuel Child Development Center, Hepsiba's parents took her to be enrolled. She began attending first grade at a school  near the center.

Those in Need Learn to Serve

There her world opened up to English and computer classes, summer camps and vacation Bible school. With a deep desire to teach children to be generous and merciful, the center encouraged the children to serve the blind and other needy people in their community.

Hepsiba's life was also shaped through the center's career guidance, health education, activities like drawing, sewing and choir, and other programs that strengthened her interests and character.

She excelled in her studies and successfully completed high school. She then applied for Compassion's Leadership Development Program (LDP) and was the only girl selected from her center. 

The Leadership Development Program has built in her the leadership and communication skills she will need to serve in her community. Though Hepsiba was a Christian from birth, her spiritual life was also strengthened through the Leadership Development Program. She has a good circle of God-fearing friends, has participated in seminars, and has spoken in her college. The program has taught her to be a courageous and daring woman of faith.

A Shining Example of Hope

Her center manager, Immanuel Kiran says, "She is a very promising girl, efficient, and religious. Her faith bolstered since she attended the spiritual camp. She has given a new hope to the community, children and center as well."

"Had it not been for Compassion, I would have not even completed 12th grade," Hepsiba says. "I am sure I would have been an ordinary street child involved in child labor." Instead, she will be the one serving those very children.

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