Last year, the closure of schools and the economic crisis caused by COVID forced 9-year-old Khalid’s family to hand him over to the local welder. At the shop where he works from dawn to dusk, he gets lunch and 300 Pakistani rupees a week – which amounts to less than $1.80.
He has learned to cut metal with a circular saw and to grind welds with an electric grinder, but without any protective gear or standard operating procedures in place to keep him safe as he works. Last month he started assisting a boy two years older than him in basic welding. The light that fascinated him once from a distance now is hurting his eyes. He finds it difficult to close his eyes, so his mother places bandages over them soaked in warm water with boiled lentils. The older workers tell him that in a couple of months his eyes will get used to it, but nobody knows what long term damage this will do to his eyes.
Despite the hardships, Khalid feels fortunate because Brighter Tomorrow is giving him the opportunity to learn to read and write, and to learn skills that will help him to thrive emotionally in a challenging world. He believes that gaining literacy will enable him to read instructions and take proper measurements.
Khalid dreams of owning a workshop one day, not like the one where he works now, but a safer workshop like the one he watches on the Discovery channel. With literacy he will be able to understand what they talk about on TV when they talk about operating procedures and safety measures.