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Nothing prepared me for India

World Vision
25 March 2013 by Sally Gyles
Nothing prepared me for India

Sally and Lizzie met inspiring young people who are advocating against child labour in India.

I thought I was prepared for the magic of India. I listened to people’s stories, read books, watched Bollywood films, ate a lot of curry and thought I was ready. I wasn’t.

Everything they say is true. India is big, loud, colourful, smelly, a massive contradiction – amazing. Yet this means nothing until you are actually standing in the streets of Delhi surrounded by the chaos.

I was one of nine young Australians who travelled to India to see World Vision’s work up close. We met so many incredible young people who are advocating for change within their communities.

As I entered one community in northern India, we were greeted with song, flowers and a traditional Hindu blessing. We met a room full of children who had previously been part of the workforce as rag pickers, or in the textile industry.

They shared with us their stories through comics they had drawn, showing the terrors of child labour and the uncertainty of living in slums or on the street, and the transformation that occurred when World Vision entered their communities. The comics ended with the joy of receiving an education and the new-found stability in their daily life. I left with my heart full of joy at what these children had achieved.

As we were leaving the slum we walked down one of the narrow paths and were confronted by a pile of shoes – the exact shoes I had purchased two days earlier in a market in Delhi. As we approached the doorway, we saw a room full of shoes where a few men were working. Across the path was another door where a young boy, maybe 14 years old, operated a machine embossing the pattern onto the leather. And then it hit me – my shoes could have been made right here, by this very boy.

I instantly felt like crying or hiding in a dark room. I never got the chance to stop and talk to this boy, learn his name, how old he was, what his passions were … nothing. All I know is that he worked on shoes, possibly mine. The harsh reality of child labour had finally hit home. I began to understand the scope of the issue and how most of us do so little to address it.

World Vision and the incredible young people of India are doing extraordinary work to tackle child labour in the field, but more can be done by people like you and me here at home. I learnt the importance of asking questions; how can these shoes be produced so cheaply? Was a child exploited for my footwear?

You and I can have an impact, by asking questions and demanding that no child be involved in the production of the goods we purchase. Let’s use our consumer dollar to limit our contribution to child labour.

Sally is a proud member of VGen, World Vision’s Youth Movement.

Want to travel and see World Vision’s work up close? Check out our Global One program!

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