With his wife Sajida Bibi and two of his children, Parvez Masih makes bricks to pay off a debt contracted 20 years ago. His children have stopped going to school. He has physical and mental disabilities. AsiaNews continues its campaign.
Faisalabad (AsiaNews) – Extreme poverty and a medical operation forced Parvez Masih to agree to work in a brick factory. That was 20 years ago. Today, the 50-year-old Christian has not paid off his debt and is still toiling at the factory along with his family.
AsiaNews launched a campaign last December to help people like Parvez Masih and his wife Sajida Bib with food and winter clothing for their children, but pushed by readers AsiaNews is now working to help them dig themselves out of the pit of debt by providing debt relief to at least 52 families
The interview with Parvez Masih and Sajida Bibi took place during the second distribution of gift packages and other aid to families last week.
Parvez Masih, 50, has worked at a brick factory in Kamalpur for 20 years. The Christian father of four (one daughter and three sons) lives with his family in one small room, given to him by his parents many years ago.
“Before I made bricks,” Parvez told AsiaNews, “I worked as a gardener in a company. Everything was fine until I had an accident. Because of that, my abdominal glands were affected and I could no longer be a gardener. I started taking time off work and as the doctors advised me to have an operation, I asked the company to help me. But they chose to fire me. I was truly helpless. At that crucial moment no one was helping me; my family was very poor and could not afford the cost of my surgery.
“At one point, a friend of mine took me to the owner of a brick factory, who gave me the money for the operation, but on condition that to repay the debt, I and my family work at the factory. Being totally defenceless, I accepted the loan and had the operation. At that time, 20 years ago, I took out a loan of 80,000 rupees (US$ 500). Since then, my family and I have been working at the brick factory, but we have not yet been able to repay the debt, which has actually increased to 165,000 rupees (US$ 1,030).
“After the operation, working bent over the bricks is not easy. I have a large cut on my stomach and this does not allow me to sit properly. Yet I had to work for my family. Now the situation has become even more difficult. I am now 50 years old, the operation I underwent does not allow me to work easily, and in the last three months I have fallen ill and cannot work. But the boss is forcing me. He comes to get me at home and takes me to the bricks because he says he wants his money back.
“I also have mental problems due to the difficulties I see around me. I had to get my two eldest sons to stop studying and I had to send them to work in the brick factory; the other two children are small and are going to school. My wife, who can't work in bricks, works as a housekeeper and earns something for food. But I can't remember a day we ate three meals lately.”
Sajida Bibi, Parvez Masih's wife, is 47 years old. She also talks about her hardships. “I worked with my husband at the brick factory for many years. But now due to my health condition, I can't take it anymore. Now I work as a maid in a house; they give me 7,000 rupees (US$ 45) a month. But this is almost nothing for our needs. Two of our children work at the brick factory to pay off the debt, but they can't do it. This debt will ruin their life, as it has ruined ours.
“With the little money I earn, I cannot afford household expenses, the medicines for my husband ... AsiaNews and the many people are helping us with food and many other things. I hope that someone among the people of God will take this misery away from us.”
AsiaNews has launched a campaign: “Pakistan: Help the unemployed of the brick factors”. Your support can be sent to:
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Purpose: “Campaign AN05 – Pakistan: Help the unemployed of the brick factors”
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