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Children at Work

By Kayla R.
Pennsylvania, Age 5

Children at Work
Millions of children around the world must work for food and shelter

Bonauli Simamora stands on a rickety fishing pier, staring at the waves slapping at the wooden beams below. With the sun's rays beating down on his back, the 14-year-old hauls up a giant fishing net, careful not to lose his balance and fall into the ocean.

For the past nine months, Bonauli has worked 7 days a week, 10 hours a day. From sunrise to sunset, he labors on a pier that sits 10 miles off the coast of Indonesia.

''I work from 8 in the morning until 6 at night,'' says Bonauli. ''Every morning, I wake up, sort the fish, dry them, boil them, and put them into storage. Then I wait for the tide to go down and do it again.''

Bonauli is one of 120 million children worldwide, from ages 5 to 14, who work instead of going to school. Each day, nearly 80 million of these children risk their health, safety, and often their lives, to earn money.

Endangered Lives
''Child labor is cheap labor,'' says Darlene Adkins of the Child Labor Coalition, a group that works to end child labor abuses around the world.

As many as 70 percent of the world's working children labor on farms, picking crops, herding cattle, and operating equipment. In the fields, they are exposed to dangerous pesticides, or poisonous chemicals. Pesticides increase the children's risk of developing lung disease.

In India, Nepal, and Pakistan, boys and girls work up to 16 hours a day weaving carpets in small huts with little light or fresh air. Loom owners sometimes chain children to the looms, so they won't run away.

''Their hands are dry, cracked, and gnarled from labor,'' Adkins says.

In Peru, young boys work in mines, digging for gems and coal deep below the earth's surface. As they crawl through dark, cramped tunnels, the boys risk death from cave-ins. Around the world, girls as young as 5 work up to 15 hours a day, 7 days a week as housekeepers.

''These children are living with families, but they are not considered part of the family,'' says Adkins. ''Often, they are beaten, only fed leftovers, and are forced to sleep on the floor. They are treated as slaves.''

Stopping Child Labor
Students at Broad Meadows Middle School in Quincy, Massachusetts, created their own Web site to educate Americans about child labor.

The students raised more than $100,000 through the Web site to help build a school in Punjab, Pakistan. Today, 288 children, who might otherwise be weaving rugs or stitching soccer balls, attend class instead.

For Bonauli, school seems like a distant dream. After endless months of backbreaking labor, the homesick teenager has just one wish: to see his family again.

''I miss my mom,'' he says. ''For the past 2 1/2 months, I have asked to go home, but there is no one here to replace me. I have to wait until a new worker comes.''

For now, Bonauli works and waits.