It’s eleven am on a monday at a local bus station in a small pueblo in Honduras. The station is crowed with people, the noise is overpowering. But we sit, unaffected. It seems just another bus station in another town, another sardine can, salsa booming bus ride awaits. We are calm in our reflections as we sit in anticipation.
A child wanders by selling ice cream. Moments later another ruddy faced niño passes with a box of microwaved popcorn propped on his head. Child after child passes selling all manner of goods. It seems completely normal, business as usual. Two young entrepreneurs stand in the corner counting their notes, their stances that of men three times their age.
The chipmunks is playing on the tiny chipped corner tv. It is dubbed badly in spanish and the chipmunk voices are screeching over the crowd.
A girl of around six years sits crosslegged on the grey linoleum floor staring upwards, completely enraptured. Her large woven basket of chewing gum and snacks for sale close by her side. Just a child, watching TV. She is one of the many miniture salesmen and women creening their necks to catch a glimpse of the cheeky chipmunk antics.
She jumps with a startled look on her face as if just remembering where she is. She then resumes her slow shuffle between the aisles offering the cold faced strangers her wares. I wonder, how many hours will she be working? Is she scared of what could happen to her? Or is this just the reality of the life she was born into?
It is a sad day when you realise that there are so many thousands of children who must work everyday for the survival of their families. Even more disturbing is the moment I realised that I, like so many others, had become immune to it. It just seems like the normal way of life, it shouldn’t.
According to UNICEF this little girl is one of 115 million worldwide who are working rather then experiencing the kind of childhood we take for granted.
It’s heavy reading I know. And I really don’t know enough to put out any sort of call to action. The social and economic problems are complex, there is no easy fix.
Maybe I just want to give you and myself a bit of food for thought as we sip our lattes and complain about the weather.
After all, all children should be free to laugh and learn as they grow to become the leaders of our future, otherwise, what hope is there?