Stories: Children, Communities, Futures

A year has passed since Lao teenager Khied experienced the “most terrible nightmare imaginable”.

The collapse of a dam in Attapeu in July 2018 caused flash flooding into Khied’s small village in southern Laos and spread into neighbouring Cambodia.

At least 26 people reportedly died and more than 6,000 children and their families were displaced, seeking refuge in camps.

Khied’s family lost their home and everything they owned.

The ensuing 12 months have brought many challenges, but Khied says she has emerged stronger thanks to ChildFund supporters who helped provide vital relief after the floods.

“Among all the misfortune there have still been some really good things that have made me happy,” Khied says.

“I’ve never felt discouraged or cursed by fate as a result of the disaster. It has made me into a much stronger person in both body and mind.”

After the flooding, Khied was worried she would not return to school. Her family was homeless and her parents had no way to make a living.

The event had been traumatic.

After their home was destroyed, Khied was dragged out with her brother and sister by the force of the water, to the forest.

It was five days before they saw their parents again.

“During the flood, I told my sister and brother to hold onto a tree so we would not float away,” Khied said. “There was so much debris like roofs, and logs and rocks that hit us.

“I had to stay alert and take care of my brother and sister so they wouldn’t be scared.”

The siblings ended up on a mountain in the forest, where they stayed overnight.

The next day, Khied saw the extent of the devastation. Debris was floating everywhere and there wasn’t a house in sight.

“I could only hear the sounds of people, injured and crying,” she says.

“I tried looking for my parents and calling out for them, but I didn’t see them anywhere.”

They spent seven months at a displacement camp supported by ChildFund Laos, where the family received the help it needed to get back on its feet.

Khied was able to return to school and is now excited about finishing her studies next year.

She says the time she spent volunteering at a Child-Friendly Space at the camp has made her more confident about the future.

“I have learned to be more courageous, to participate more, and am better at sharing my thoughts and opinions,” Khied says.

“Part of that is that I’ve been able to attend trainings on how to implement activities through the Child-Friendly Spaces project.

“This has also allowed me to participate better and play a greater role in activities at my own school, especially dancing and playing sports.

“I even play on my school’s volleyball team.”

Khied is back in school and thriving thanks to ChildFund donors who helped her families following floods in Laos.

At ChildFund we believe all children should grow up feeling cared for, encouraged and valued, no matter where they live.

Every child should explore, learn and thrive, and be able to reach their potential.

Unfortunately, many children around the world grow up in an environment of fear, unable to have the childhood they need.

Millions of children are forced to work in dangerous conditions when they should be learning and growing in the safety of a classroom.

Despite laws to protect children, and an overall decline in the number of child labourers, 152 million children are still working too early. Below we take a look at how all 152 million children around the world are affected by exploitation as child labourers.

Many children work in agriculture, construction and other hazardous jobs

Of the 152 million children working, 73 million are in hazardous jobs. Agriculture, construction and manufacturing are some of the main industries employing children. In these industries children can be exposed to toxic chemicals, expected to operate dangerous machinery, and expected to work long hours and risk abuse.

When children work they often have to drop out of school, or their education suffers as a result of the additional responsibilities they have outside of school.

“In my life, I am happiest when I go to school, and see my classmates having fun,” said Phhuong, from Cambodia who dropped out of school in Grade 6 to help her younger brother continue his education.

“When I see my friends going to school, I feel very regretful. “I am not able to meet them any more. We used to play together.”

A report by the International Labor Organisation in 2015 found that in some countries working children were half as likely to attend school as children who were not working.

Without an education, or with a limited education, children are more likely to end up low-paid jobs which decreases their chances to escape poverty.

Older children are expected to work to provide for their younger siblings

In the world’s poorest countries, one in four children is a child labourer.

In many cases, the eldest child in the family is the most vulnerable to child labour. As soon as they are old enough to work, they are expected to help provide for their younger siblings.

Children may be expected to work if their parents are unable to

Sometimes children will be forced to work if one of their parents is unable to work. This is what happened to Arum’s daughter Mony, who is 13 years old and working in a dangerous brick factory after he mother was injured at work.

“I don’t want my kids uneducated like me,” Arun said. “I want them to study so they’re able to find better jobs.

“But I didn’t know what to do when my wife could not help me out on family income.”

Almost half of all child labourers are younger than 11 years old. In most regions, girls and boys are equally likely to be engaged in child labour.

How you can help end child labour

ChildFund believes that ending the exploitation of children is inextricably linked to our poverty reduction work.

Poverty can result in more children becoming involved in harmful labour, rendering them vulnerable to trafficking, and increasing the likelihood of girls marrying at a young age.

ChildFund works with local partners, governments and communities to prevent and respond to the exploitation of children around the world. Donate now to help give children a childhood without fear.