A Peruvian Childhood

Peru is the second Latin American country with the most working children; there are almost two million of them.[1]

And these kids make an average of S/. 6.42 a day. If they continue with their jobs until adulthood, they would be living on seven times less than the minimum wage, so they would be forced to send their own children to work as well. Most of the people in this situation are already aware that they are stuck in a never-ending cycle, but they don’t know any better; that’s the way it’s been for generations.

Putting a child in this position hurts them; anyone that has visited Mensajeros de la Paz can know. Not only are they put at this never-ending financial disadvantage, but are also deeply affected psychologically.

Most of kids greet any visitor with smiles and hugs, yet it was very clear who the ones that worked were, as they are noticeably isolated from the rest. This is because working children tend to have limited social skills.[2] There is around one of them in each class.

Most recently, when asked about his hobbies, one of them said, “I like math, and soccer, and… um….” He paused, nervously searching for words, and then said, “Sorry, I’m not very good with… um… communication, and all that.”

Another boy refused to make eye contact as his eyes filled with tears when asked what he would be doing on Thursday afternoon; he said what he had to do was a “secret”, and that he would get in a lot of trouble if he didn’t do it. This is a second trait of working children: depression.[2]

Although both of these kids’ situations are concerning, they aren’t even the worst case scenarios. In 2013, for example, over 8,000 peruvian children dropped out in order to work.[3] Many are forced to skip meals, others have to work in very unsafe neighborhoods.

Work puts them in pain, angst, stress and exhaustion that no kid that age should go through. Fortunate people with healthy, happy childhoods can’t begin to imagine the lives of these children. In fact, people with any childhood at all, because what they have is not a childhood.

It’s amazing to think that two million kids are in this position, yet there is relatively little conversation about it. We pass by them every day, either driving to work or taking the bus to school. We can’t pretend that we don’t see them.

They are there.

1. Comercio, El. “Perú es el segundo país con más niños trabajadores en Latinoamérica, según la OIT.” elcomercio.pe. 26 Feb. 2013. Web. 13 Oct. 2015. <http://elcomercio.pe/lima/sucesos/peru-segundo-pais-mas-ninos-trabajadores-latinoamerica-segun-oit-noticia-1542686>

2. Boundless. “Deprivation and Development.” Boundless. 21 Jul. 2015. Web. 13 Oct. 2015. <https://www.boundless.com/sociology/textbooks/boundless-sociology-textbook/socialization-4/the-role-of-socialization-42/deprivation-and-development-266-10154/>


3. Comercio, El. “Más de 8.000 escolares abandonaron las aulas durante el 2013.” elcomercio.pe. 26 May 2014. Web. 13 Oct. 2015. <http://elcomercio.pe/peru/lambayeque/mas-8000-escolares-abandonaron-aulas-durante-2013-noticia-1731917>

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