Providing hope in the brickkilns
"I wanted to join a professional cricket club but was pushed back by selectors as I was a Christian,” Kareem explains. “I received many invitations to leave Christianity for [a] better future, but I refused them.” Kareem still plays for a club, but his ambition is to coach young Christians to play.
Kareem has served with OM in Pakistan for six years working in literature and sports ministries. “I found sports as a wonderful tool to share the Good News.” shares Kareem. “I share with my players about God and His wonderful love through Christ. Many have accepted Him as their Lord and experienced growth in their game and life.”
The space Kareem uses for cricket coaching is next to one of the province’s 5,000 brickkilns and, as a result, many of his team are fulltime kiln workers. Through this, Kareem has started a Bible study group and regularly visits their families to disciple them.
Whilst all of them accept living life under debt, few aspire to leave this generational profession as they feel their only purpose is to lay bricks. Kareem wishes for them to leave this profession as many of them live below the poverty line and it can be a form of bonded labour, with many being taken advantage of.
Four years ago, Kareem married Shaima*, a professional teacher. Like Kareem, Shaima has a heart for needy and poor kids. “I am using my skill of teaching to educate these kids and also encouraging adults to learn [to] read and write so that no one [can] cheat them.” Adult literacy classes can be a challenge in these communities, as for many it is a matter of honour and shame whilst for others this is not a priority.
“Women are eager to learn more but in the mornings, they are busy laying bricks and the rest of the time they are doing household chores. My desire is that these men and women could participate together and be able to learn basic reading and writing skills so that they could know what their account balance is.”
Azhar* and his family are part of a brickkiln community where he attends cricket coaching class every day. Azhar’s dream is be a professional cricketer but his brick laying responsibilities do not allow him to attend the cricket class. As the eldest son he feels the pressure of providing for his family.
“I already left the dream of studying as my parents are under debt and brickkiln owner [is] pressurising them to pay the debt as soon as possible,” shares Azhar. “I don’t want to
sacrifice the other big dream to become a cricket player. I have to miss a brick laying session to do training and play a match. I come to cricket class not just to pursue my dream, but also to learn about Christianity as the coach gives us [Bible] teaching as well.”
Rashem* (25) has two children and was forced to drop out of school very early, as her parents intended her to work at the brickkiln. She is now part of OM’s adult literacy class and is sending her children to school, too.
“Until I got admission in adult literacy class I always felt embarrassed that I could not help my children in their studies. Since my childhood I did hard work while laying bricks and wished to go school but [the] financial condition of the family didn’t allow it. I feel confident that as I complete this course I can help my kids and better manage my household.”
Nazia* (35) has never been able to attend school. “I never knew the worth of education but for the past few years I have seen many families leave brickkilns and pay off their debts as their children [found] different professions, earning to [escape] brickkiln owner slavery. I am now very ambitious of living a better and different life.”
“I got admission in the class to learn reading and writing so that I could keep an eye on our account with the brickkiln owner. My son recently got married and I am going to bring my daughter-in-law to the class too as I want my new generation to be literate and live a good standard life.”