By: Brenna Miles. Interviews and photos by J. Sangma.   |   Posted: June 10, 2024   |   Updated: June 10, 2024

Left abandoned, Shanto balances multiple jobs to make ends meet. But there’s hope! Learn more about Shanto and how to help stop child labor here.

Escaping Child Labor: One Boy's Story & How You Can Help

Left abandoned, Shanto balances multiple jobs to make ends meet. But there’s hope! Learn more about Shanto and how to help stop child labor here.

Written by Brenna Miles. Interviews and photos by J. Sangma.
A young boy stuck in child labor wipes the sweat from his face using his sleeve.

Shanto, a boy living in South Asia, was one of the millions of children around the world facing child labor. Abandoned by his parents, he had no choice but to work tirelessly to provide for himself, sacrificing his childhood, safety and potentially his future.

However, there was hope for Shanto and there's hope for other at-risk children too. By being the hands and feet of Jesus, we can protect vulnerable children from the dangers of child labor.

Here, you'll hear Shanto's story, learn about the impact of child labor and discover how you can help stop it.

What's Here:

Escaping Child Labor: Shanto's Story

I still don't understand why my parents had to leave me.

— Shanto

Shanto's parents abandoned him as a young teen, leaving him with a heavy burden. To care for himself, he started to work whatever jobs he could find, no matter how hazardous. Each day, questions swirled in his mind and hurt mounted in his heart.

Why did his parents leave? Would he be able to continue school? And what about his future? Would he need to work day in and day out for the rest of his life? For Shanto, it seemed as if his dreams of escaping poverty were slowly disappearing.

Work and School: A Delicate Balance

Refusing to give up, Shanto worked hard to try and balance work with his studies. He went to school four days a week in the evening shifts, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. He spent the rest of the day working multiple dangerous jobs for barely enough to scrape by.

As a painter and construction site worker, Shanto earned around 500 taka, or $4.50 per day, on an on-call basis. The income was far from stable, so Shanto was constantly looking for other jobs to fill the gaps.

Shanto's aunt, Tahmeena, soon graciously took him in and gave him a place to stay. However, she required Shanto to contribute 2,500 taka, or $22.72, per month for rent. Shanto began working in his aunt’s restaurant in the mornings before leaving for the construction site for the day.

A young boy shovels mortar inside a dark building.

Every day, Shanto hauled heavy bricks and iron rods, dust clinging to his worn sandals, his body threatening to buckle under the weight.

Yet the weight wasn't just physical. With the burden of attending school while constantly working and worrying if he'd have enough to pay for rent, food and school fees … the weight of poverty was almost too much to bear.

Shanto was exhausted. He couldn't afford to meet all his needs, but giving any of them up, especially his education, was out of the question. Fearing he would soon crumble, Shanto knew he needed help.

Finding Hope in the Local Church

After being registered in the Compassion program, Shanto found hope in the local church.

Through the church, Shanto received the funds to pay his school tuition, allowing him to continue his studies without the burden of dangerous work. And through his sponsor, pastor and tutors, Shanto is receiving the love, care and spiritual encouragement he so desperately desired after being abandoned.

Even though his parents left him, Shanto knows he still has people to love who will love him back. He knows he has a Heavenly Father standing by his side who promises him a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11). And with an education, the sky's the limit for what that future could look like.

Although each day will bring about its challenges, Shanto now faces them with confidence and resilience. After all, he's got his whole life ahead of him and an entire support system cheering him on.

Child labor affects millions of children around the world just like Shanto. To fight child labor, we must be able to recognize it and take the necessary steps to support children affected.

What Is Child Labor?

Child labor is work that keeps children from thriving in childhood and reaching their God-given potential as they grow. It's work that's harmful to their physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.

For Shanto, his tireless work to meet his urgent daily needs threatened his education and future livelihood. The long hours and heavy loads also placed him in physical danger, while the stress of need caused mental turmoil.

In short, child labor robs children of all ages of their safety, future and fundamental rights.

Types of Child Labor

There are many different types of child labor. And while all types are potentially dangerous and harmful to children, some are more severe than others. For example, children can be exploited and forced into slavery, trafficking or prostitution.

Why Does Child Labor Happen?

Poverty is a key cause behind child labor. Many families living in extreme poverty can't meet their most basic needs, such as food, water or medical care. In desperation, families send their children to work to help provide for the family, fearing they have no other choice.

Child Labor Statistics

  • According to UNICEF, in the world's poorest countries, more than 1 in 5 children (ages 5 to 17) are engaged in child labor.
  • According to the most recent data available, child labor affects 160 million children worldwide, which is approximately 1 in 10 children.
  • Of that 160 million, 63 million girls and 97 million boys are affected by child labor.
  • The number of children aged 5 to 17 working in hazardous conditions has risen from 72.5 million to 79 million since 2016.
  • Regions in Africa have the highest child labor rates, including West and Central Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa and Eastern and Southern Africa. However, child labor happens in countries across the globe.

How Does Child Labor Affect Children Living in Poverty?

For children living in poverty, hazardous working conditions put them at risk for illness and injury. And unfortunately, most live in areas where medical care is often impossible to get. They must also work tirelessly, in fear of not having enough for their next meal, while missing out on fundamental childhood activities, such as going to school and playing with their friends.

All of this is emotionally, mentally and physically devastating. Child labor also perpetuates poverty. Children who must work miss out on education. They're not able to build skills to find well-paying, safe jobs. As a result, they're likely to grow into adults who still labor in poverty and need their kids to help make ends meet. This can keep the family in poverty for generations.

You Can Help Stop Child Labor

Reading all the stats and facts about child labor can make it seem as if there's no hope. But together, we can make more stories like Shanto's possible.

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.

— Proverbs 31:8-9 (NIV)

From right where you are, there are three key ways you can help stop child labor for children around the globe: pray, give and partner.


The Bible tells us that the "prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective" (James 5:16, NIV). Prayer changes things! Right where you are, you can join us in praying for kids vulnerable to child labor around the world.

Not sure how to pray? Here’s a simple prayer you can use as inspiration:

"Father, we know that you hold the whole world in your hands, and that includes every single child. I ask that you protect each of them, keeping them safe from child labor and other harmful circumstances. I thank you for being our refuge and strong tower, the one we can run to and be safe. I pray vulnerable children around the world will run to you. In Jesus' name, amen."


Many children are forced into labor simply because their families can't get what they need, from food to medical care. One way to protect a child from dangerous work is by helping provide for these needs by giving.

For example, you can give medical assistance to vulnerable children and families, ensuring they have access to treatments and checkups. Or you could give clean water support, helping families access critical water and hygiene education. You could even give the gift of an education so that a child can pursue a brighter future!

Sponsor a Child

Want to help a child break the cycle of poverty for themselves and their families? One way to do that is by walking alongside them, partnering with them as they journey out of poverty. By sponsoring a child, that's exactly what you'll do.

Through your sponsorship, a child will receive what they need to thrive, such as regular medical checkups, food support and skills training. Your support protects a child from the need to labor, ensuring their physical and emotional well-being now and in the future.

Sponsorship doesn't stop there. As a sponsor, you'll be able to offer a child the words of encouragement they need to be strong and courageous. And by sponsoring with Compassion, you can be sure the child you sponsor will receive the gift of hearing the gospel, which changes everything.

Young girl smiles at the camera while holding a Bible. She’s surrounded by flowers and lush green plants.

For Shanto, the support of the local church and a loving sponsor helped him see beyond his circumstances and into a better future. He now has the confidence and support he needs to break the cycle of poverty.

Although child labor exists, we can fight it by being the hands and feet of Jesus to children just like Shanto around the world.

Help a Child Reach Their God-Given Potential

Santo smiling

You can help children like Shanto see beyond their circumstances into a brighter future.

Santo smiling