“Since then we have probably been the poorest family in the village,” says Balachandran. “We have to pay off the loan and we can’t afford a proper house.”
Twenty years ago, everyone in Balachandran’s village worked at the quarry, but now it has closed.
“The holes became too deep and dangerous. The company just moved out without even putting any fences up. Sometimes children fall down there and die,” says Balachandran.
Balachandran and his mother.
Balachandran’s father has to travel a long way to find work and he only comes home a few times a year. His mother thinks that’s for the best.
“He drinks too much, to numb the pain in his leg. Then he gets drunk and beats me. If it wasn’t for you children I wouldn’t want to go on living.”
Back when the quarry was in use, local politicians opened an alcohol shop in the village and earned money through the workers spending their wages there. The quarry is now shut, but the alcohol shops are still there.
“Once I got down on my knees and said ‘Please father, stop drinking,’” says Balachandran’s big sister. “He cried and said sorry, but he just couldn’t stop.”
When Rosi Gollmann met Balachandran she encouraged him to get an education– the key to the future.
No more child labour
All the parents in the village used to be child labourers, and even some of the children, but now that is over. For a while Balachandran worked in a bakery after school, but that was dangerous, with burning hot ovens and oven trays. Then Rosi and her partners helped the children with school fees, and organised job training for Balachandran’s mother. Now he and his sister are concentrating on their education so that they can get good jobs.
“I want to work as a police officer and protect poor people. I’ll be a fair police officer, I won’t accept bribes and I plan to make sure the alcohol shops are shut down.”