When COVID-19 hit Peshawar, Pakistan, many businesses closed. People working in places ranging from small road side stalls to big stores and restaurants lost their jobs.
Like Jamil and Shafiq, who worked in a poultry shop: with no social safety net and no savings, they could no longer afford to pay school fees for their children. Their family was soon on the verge of starvation.
After closing his poultry store, their former employer set up small stalls to sell protective masks during the pandemic. He called Jamil and Safiq to offer work, not for them, but for their children. With no other options for feeding their family, they agreed. Now their children, aged 8 to 12, work at these stalls and are the only source of income for the family.
According to Jamil, the COVID-19 outbreak has caused a strange shift in employment. Everybody wants to employ children, who are more affordable than adults. Shafiq sees no reversal of this trend.
The couple feel that they have lost their children and will not be able to get them back.
And the children have lost their childhood.
A Brighter Tomorrow is working to give it back to them, with a hot meal, play time, and literacy training, as well as ongoing psychosocial support.