Meet Arvind

Arvind's family Hard times Arvind's work Setting Arvind free

Arvind's family
Arvind lives in India with his family. He is 8 years old and has three brothers – Vinod (13), Arun (10) and Suresh (4). Arvind's father and mother both work making beedis (cigarettes).

Arvind goes to a transit school for children who have missed lots of school. His favourite subject is art.

"At school I am learning to write the alphabet and numbers. In school we also get lunch. I like rice and sambhar (lentil curry with vegetables)."

Arvind loves watching TV at their neighbour's place. His favourite show is WWF (World Wrestling Federation). He likes to playfight with his brothers and play games like cricket and marbles with his friends.

Arvind cutting stems
Arvind cutting stems

Hard times
Arvind and his older brothers go to school now, but a while ago things were different. Their parents are very poor so they borrowed some money. To help pay back the moneylender, Arvind's brother Vinod had to work making beedis. Arvind hadn't started school so he helped Vinod.

Arvind's family live in an area where the Born to be Free project is helping people. When project workers heard about Vinod they paid the money so he could go back to school.

Arvind started going to school with his brothers but didn't finish his first year. His mother got sick and his father needed to buy medicine. It cost 1,500 rupees (about $50) but they didn't have the money. So his father went back and borrowed money from the moneylender to pay for it.

This time it was Arvind who stopped going to school to work. His family couldn't do anything else.

Arvind's work
Arvind never liked working and has bad memories of what happened at the beedi place in the village.

"In the beginning my hands and my thumb would hurt, but once I got used to it then it wasn't a problem. If I did not work quickly then they would beat me. Sometimes with the knife or the scissors. I used the knife to cut the stems off the leaves. If I missed then I cut my finger. I do not want to cut leaves."

Arvind worked six days a week for five months. He started at 7am and finished at 8pm. He worked quickly doing two kilograms of leaves a day, earning 60 rupees a week (about $2).

Learn more about making beedis and view the photo album

Setting Arvind free
The Born to be Free project workers discovered that Arvind wasn't going to school anymore. They worked out a way to help the whole family.

First they paid back the moneylender. Arvind stopped working and started going to the transit school. Families with children at the transit school get a small amount every month from the government to help keep their children at school.

The project workers gave Arvind some books, a slate (a small blackboard) and some clothes for school.

They also gave the family four goats. They can use the milk or sell any they don't need. If they need any extra money for something then they can also sell any baby goats that are born.

Arvind's parents still work making beedis. The boys help them, but now it's after school or on the weekend.

Arvind and his brothers want to stay at school and then join the police force. Arvind wants to be an inspector.