A thousand colours glitter between little fingers. Old tyres, cigarette papers and waste plastic are cleaned and rolled into pretty, colourful beads, and that which at first glance looks like rubbish is soon transformed into beautiful bracelets.
What is the alternative for children who live in poverty? This question unfortunately has no single correct answer. Access to schooling would obviously be the preferable choice, but for many families the incentive of a better future is simply not enough. They need an alternative that improves their situation in the here and now. Luckily, there are a number of local organisations, led by enthusiasts, that are working to provide solutions. They work on the basis that almost anything is better than slave labour.
Sébastien Marot is one of these enthusiasts. He’s Executive Director of Friends International, a rescue centre for children of all ages who have ended up on the streets, or who have become victims of human trafficking. At the Friends International Education Centre, marginalised children have the opportunity to learn a trade.
Sébastien says that tourists who give money to children on the streets help to keep them from getting an education, confirming what we have previously heard. An alternative is that they can come to the education centre and receive training in a profession, so that they can earn their own money to cover living expenses.
The education centre also has a store that sells jewellery and other items produced by the children. The money goes to the children who created the products that are sold. This gives them a realistic approach to working life, and teaches them important lessons about market forces. Supply and demand also reign supreme here, explains Sébastien.
Sébastien also has many sad stories about the fate of children in the area. He has been personally involved in saving children who had become victims of human trafficking, and has had several threats made on his life due to his work.
But there is no trace of cynicism or hopelessness in him. The children are, of course, the future.
We’ll continue our story next week.