Malikpur, 45 families without food or clothes for winter: The lockdown in brick factories
AsiaNews launches a fundraising campaign for the unemployed brick factory workers for Christmas. Each gift pack contains: flour, spices, legumes, oil, sugar, tea, rice and soap. With 15 euros you can support a family for 15 days.
Faisalabad (AsiaNews) - “Due to the lockdown the brick factories are closed and we cannot earn a living. Our children have no food or even clothes for the winter," Babar Masih, 48, with a family of three daughters and a three-year-old boy confides to AsiaNews.
Babar has always worked in brick factories, and so has his wife and three daughters. But since April 2020, due to the pandemic, the Pakistani government has closed all these factories and he, like many others, has been out of work; his family no longer has any income.
In Punjab alone, there are about 10 thousand brick factories, which absorb almost 2 million workers, men and women (and also children). 60% of them are Christians, destined for humble jobs, amid toil and dirt. In the first few months, unemployment pushed them to seek loans from factory owners, becoming vicims of crippling future debts.
Their situation has deeply moved Shafique Sharif, human rights activist and AsiaNews collaborator. Shafique knows from the inside the situation of workers in brick factories: for three years he himself worked as a labourer in one of these factories to pay for his studies.
Thanks to some help from Italy (in particular from the Nazareth Committee), since last April Shafique has been taking care of 20 unemployed families, distributing gift packages every month. Each package contains flour, spices, legumes, oil, sugar, tea, rice and soap. Their content is enough to support a small family for 15 days. The cost of supporting 20 families is around € 300: € 15 per family. Of course, the number of families asking for help is increasing every day and by now they have become 45.
Faced with this situation and the essential needs of these brothers and sisters of ours, AsiaNews has decided to launch the campaign "Pakistan: Help Brick Factory Jobless". You can donate to:
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Since April, due to the lockdown, the workers of the brick factories have been unemployed. Since then, with a group of friends, we have been helping 20-22 families, giving them a package of food and essential household goods every month. In recent days we have distributed these packages to 21 families in preparation for Christmas. But as much as we try to help them, the donations we collect are not enough. This is why we are also asking for your help too.
I decided on this initiative because I feel the pain of these brick factory workers deeply. In 1997, I passed university entrance exams, but my family did not have the money to allow me to continue my studies. So I too was forced to work for three years as a brick labourer to produce and transport bricks. Later I continued to work and study as a private individual. I am now graduated, and I am truly grateful to Jesus Christ for never giving up hope.
The challenges these workers face are enormous. For this reason, during the pandemic, I decided to help at least the workers of one of these factories. I chose one in Malikpur (Faisalabad), where 45 families worked and we started collecting donations for them. With the money we raise, we can only support 20-22 families of them; another 20-25 remain unaided. Those who have already benefited ask us to help others who have nothing. And they also ask us for warm clothes: we are now in the middle of winter and they don't have warm clothes to shelter from the cold.
This is why I turn to the people of God, to every generous person to help us. In this way we will be able to bring a smile to the faces of these brothers and sisters of ours and offer them the possibility of celebrating a Christmas in joy.