The story of Muhammad Ali, a 12 year old boy, is like so many child laborers in Peshawar Pakistan. Four years ago, he and his older brother had to leave school and get jobs. They had to support their family after their father was too sick to continue working at a local bakery.
Muhammed Ali is named after the famous American because his father respected that great man who struggled out of poverty and never abandoned his principles. Both brothers pay for the expenses of their extended family: their parents, two other brothers, a sister, and a grandmother. Their rented home is a small single room with one narrow bed for his father to sleep on. Everyone else sleeps on the floor.
The brother works as a driver and Muhammed Ali tried several jobs before he ended up as a street vendor.
Each day Muhammad Ali wakes up early and has a breakfast of dry bread and tea before leaving home by 7 AM. He has to get to the wholesale fruit market as soon as he can to get the best fruit, load the rickety old pushcart he rents from a neighbor and push it down the narrow, rough streets.
The cart is big and the boy is small.
Being a street vendor is hard because in Peshawar it’s illegal to sell from a cart. Moh Ali has to find a spot on a main road near an alley or corner so that he can easily hide the pushcart if city inspectors come by. If they find him, they will confiscate the cart and the fruit.
Today Muhammed Ali feels a thump and a big bump as the cart encounters a deep rut at the wrong angle causing a wheel to pop off. He hurries to inspect the damage, but can see right away that he cannot repair it by himself.
He quickly gathers up the fruit and sells it to another vendor. Then he looks for another way to make money.
A nearby bakery lets him sell their donuts on commission. Soon, he has a tray filled with pastries balanced on his head. Back and forth he goes, door to door quickly selling what he can, then returning to the shop for more. He makes less money than when he sells fruit, but he won’t go home empty-handed.
At 3 o’clock the best part of Muhammad Ali’s day begins. He rushes to Brighter Tomorrow – a free school for working children.
For the next two hours, he practices writing and learning his numbers. He also gets a calorie rich, warm meal. He is taught resilience skills like Focusing and how to manage stress. Afterwards, before heading back to work, there is even time play cricket with his school friends.
For a short while it almost feels like the life he had before his father got sick–when he could be a child..
After school, Muhammad Ali goes back to work, taking baked goods from house to house for families to eat with their evening meals.
He doesn’t get home until after dark – about 11 PM. He is almost too tired to eat the dry piece of bread his mother left for his dinner, but he is proud that, along with the money he made*, he also brought home three unsold donuts – one for his parents to share and two for the children’s breakfast. He then finds a place to sleep on the floor near the door so he can get up early the next morning without disturbing his younger brothers.
One thing Muhammad Ali knows for sure is that education is important if he wants to become successful like his American namesake. He remembers playing cricket at the school today and how he threw the ball. A wide grin spreads across his face even as he closes his eyes and falls into the deep sleep of an exhausted child.
Brighter Tomorrow Currently enrolls more than 200 boys and girls like Mohamed Ali and there are many more who are waiting. They need your support.
It costs only $2.50 a day, $60 a month or $500 a year to provide an education for one working child. For less than the price of one cup of coffee a day you can make a huge difference in a child’s life. Please give as generously as you can. All donations are greatly appreciated.