SUKKUR—It is 6:30 in the morning. Mostly women and children seem to be getting ready for work. Young teenage girls were preparing breakfast; men sipping a cup of tea. Those who were rushing to work had a quick breakfast and by 8 a.m. the camp is almost empty.
These ambitious people would find any work to do. For eight hours of work they were paid $1.20, therefore each family put their children to work to earn extra cash.
The only ones left in the camp were teens and younger children who took care of their siblings. One such girl was Begum. I noticed her the first day. She must be at least nine years old, and carrying her younger sibling, she would follow me while I was in the camp. I could not resist noticing her—she reminded me of my daughter, so I got to know her a little bit. View more photos
Her day starts early: she prepares the wood stove and helps her mom to make bread and tea. She cleans the house and puts all the beddings in place. She packs the leftover bread for lunch. Until her parents left, she was busy doing something. When they went off to work, Begum then takes care of herself. She also takes care of her little brother who is with her all day long.
She had never been to school, and when she was sick her parents treated her with herbal medicines. I had not seen her change her clothes the last three days. But she always had a beautiful smile.
During the medical camp I was looking for her but she was not to be found. I asked the village leader of her whereabouts and he said, “Begum had to work today along with her parents.” I told him that this was an important day for all the kids to be seen by the doctor and his reply was, “But what would we do when our children do not work?” I was so disappointed; children at a very young age working rather than having a decent education and enjoying their childhood.
Many children showed up at the medical camp. The doctor mentioned that most of the children seen had waterborne diseases. We had the right medicines and treatment for the children.
Just as we were about to close, I saw Begum with her brother. Her parents brought her back to the camp because she was not well. She was still wearing the same clothes, her hair was messy, but she had the most beautiful smile. I brushed her tangled hair and said, “God loves you.” She did not understand a word I said, but her smile said it all. She was seen by the doctor and given medicines.
But Begum’s day does not end there. Whether she was sick or not, she had chores at home and she had to prepare dinner before her parents came home from work.
It was a long hot day. We provided towels, soap and shampoo for the children to take a bath. With the Lifesaver jerrycan we provided clean drinking water. More than 100 children received free medical care.
At 4 p.m. I started the journey towards Peshawar to meet with Operation Blessing’s partner Humedica who were doing medical outreaches in relief camps. There were no flights out of Sukkur, therefore I decided to take the 18-hour road journey. At about 1:30 a.m. on the road I remembered the faces of the kids in the camp, especially Begum, and I prayed for hope for these children.
I arrived in Lahore at 6 a.m., and in an hour I am heading to Peshawar, another 7-hour journey. I will have more for you from Peshawar. God bless.