Joel’s Story: “I was a prisoner…”


This week, as we walk alongside children who face slavery or forced labour, join us in a busy street market in Peru...


You are a young boy named Joel. You feel the hustle and bustle of everyone walking past you. It’s an exciting place – lots of bright colours, fantastic smells and delicious looking food. While you want to wander around and explore, you can’t. You are here to work, using all of your strength to lug a trolley larger than yourself and carry packages for other customers. Hopefully you will make enough to buy food to fill your family’s hungry stomachs.


Your father left before you can remember, so from the age of 3, you’ve had to find ways to support yourself and your family. Because you need to work, you don’t get to play with the other children and often, you have to miss school.


At the age of five, you are sent away to work in the fields with your uncles. Working here is much harder than the market. You’re under the sun all day, working your body to the point of breaking. You feel imprisoned, not free to be a kid and have fun. At night, you just want to rest, but often you find your relatives taking their anger out on you – yelling and even hitting you. As you lay in bed trying to fall asleep, you find yourself feeling sad, missing your mother and family back home. You feel so alone and trapped here and wonder if things will ever get better.


He [Jesus] went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,

   because he has anointed me

   to proclaim good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners

   and recovery of sight for the blind,

to set the oppressed free,

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

LUKE 4:16-19

Around the world, there are 152 million child labourers like Joel. Jesus says that he came to set the oppressed free and bring freedom for the prisoners. Let’s see how God continued to work in Joel’s story.


After a year of working hard in the fields, your mother sends for you to come home. You never thought it would happen, but you finally get to see your mum and you feel safe again. Your mum tells you she has registered you to be a ‘sponsored child’. You’re not entirely sure what that means but, because of the support your family receives through World Vision, you’re able to stop working and focus on school. Soon you begin receiving letters from your sponsor. You are so excited to be getting letters from far away and you create drawings to send back to your sponsor.


Years pass and you graduate high school, fueled by a passion to transform your emotions, pain and dreams into art. As you enter art school, you are given your first set of oil paints and you remember your journey from a small child to now. So much has changed, but your gratitude to your family and sponsor family, and excitement to create art has not faded. You begin using your talent to bring awareness to the issue of child labour. Your art advocates for children’s rights and gives a voice to the thousands of working children in Peru.