You’ve heard about them. I have too. But I had never actually seen one. The images still plague my dreams.

It was a beautiful day. We were driving deep into the countryside of rural India. Picture the tiny towns you pass on a cross-country road trip, rural communities with one stop sign and a population sign of 543.

We passed farms and community water wells where men were showering and women were filling buckets.

We also drove by several brick factories. We didn’t have the audacity to think we could actually visit the factory, so we asked if we could stop to take photos from our car.

“Of course,” our host replied. Then he eagerly opened the car doors, inviting us to come with him onto the property.

The word “factory” is misleading. There’s not a large building and there certainly isn’t any 21st-century modernization. This is more like a brick-making yard. Everything is open air, open, smoke-filled air.

There isn’t any 19th-century modernization either. I’m fairly certain this is how people have been making bricks for centuries, entirely by hand, one brick at a time.

Inside the yard are two large baking mounds, rows and rows of bricks, and concrete living stables for 10 families.

The baking mounds, or ovens, are about 20 yards long, 10 yards deep, and maybe 10 feet high.

The bricks come in several colors, burnt orange, deep red, and black. I’m not sure how they achieve different colors, but I can tell you about the black palm of one young mom’s hand.

Reader, I need you to see the concrete living stables.

Imagine five connected stalls, 8ft x 8ft, with a raised concrete shelf large enough to sleep on in each living space. The entire structure is covered with palms to shield families from the sun and occasional rain.

Now I need you to see men napping on the hard shelves, children playing in the cramped, sandy aisles, and moms trying to comfort their infants in the hot Indian sun.

Take a deep breath in, through your nose. That’s smoke.

Look down at your feet. That’s ash.

Finally, look into the eyes of the 10-month-old who is being held by his mother’s blackened palm. Where does he crawl? Learn to walk? What do his lungs look like? What kind of future does he have?

I can tell you what his future holds. He will be working in the brick factory by the time he is 5, carrying one brick at a time until he can push a wheelbarrow full of them. He won’t go to school, ever. And he will grow up to work in the same kind of empty, hopeless place.

I didn’t see any little girls, but I did see older teenagers. At most, they were 18, maybe 20. My guess is they were much younger. Their dry and polluted living conditions make them age quickly. They probably married at 15 and they are now waiting for their first babies that they will raise in these same concrete stables and in these same desolate conditions.

Unless, of course, we can get their children to school. That will change everything.

With your help, we can open the doors to 250 vulnerable children for the new school year.

That’s 250 children who will…

grow up on playgrounds instead of brickyards.

conduct chemistry experiments instead of baking bricks.

rise above the chains of poverty and oppression.

250 children whose lives will be changed forever.

A brick factory is one of the most oppressive places I’ve ever been. It haunts me and my spirit melts.

But I find that opening doors of education gives me hope, hope that tomorrow can be better for children caught in the chains of poverty and injustice.

I can’t eliminate all the brick factories today. But I can provide a way out for a few. Join me?


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