Dear Francesco D' Adamo,
After fInishing your novel, Iqbal,I became increasingly aware of the alarming issues that are in society. In the news and at school you hear about natural disasters and starving people allover the world, but before I read this book I was tuning out most things that didn't apply to my life. I was completely ignorant.
Two years ago in my English class we had to read Iqbal, and when I fIrst started reading I thought that I would fInish the book, discuss it, and create a project. The only impact I thought this novel would have on me was what grade I got in the class. It soon became apparent to me that Iqbal would become more than just a class assignment; this book and the person it is based on would change my views of the world entirely.
As I read the introduction, the statistics of child labor stunned me. Before I opened this book I knew that children all over the world worked with their parents on farms and in their businesses, but I had no idea that children were treated so harshly and I had no knowledge of bonded labor. How is it that in our world today two hundred million children between the ages of five to seventeen are, as you put it, "economically active"? And seventy three million of those are under the age of ten? I can't even begin to comprehend these numbers, let alone the fact that there are six million of those in bonded labor.
When I think of six million people, I think of the number of Jewish people that died during the Holocaust. The worst part about this is that when the Holocaust ended, people around the world were sure that something like the Holocaust would never happen again. But the reality is that six million of our world's children are living in conditions similar to the people of the Holocaust. These innocent children are split apart from their families, robbed of a childhood, and forced to work in dismal circumstances with little or no hope of returning to a normal life.
This was only the beginning of my reaction to Iqbal. As I read further into the fictional account of Fatima, I got an understanding of the world in which she lived in before Iqbal arrived. The feeling of hopelessness I felt for these children as I read Fatima's account of their day-to-day lifestyle would not diminish, and as I read her longing to reach the edge of the window, it reminded me of how permanent and desolate their situation was. That is, until Iqbal arrived.
When Iqbal Masih came into the story, it was as if dark clouds had parted slightly, letting a sliver of light come into the picture. It wasn't much, just a faint glimmer of hope that had escaped the despicable situation, but it was enough. Enough for me at least to notice a slight mood change in the novel, from misery to something that seemed to be more hopeful, that could change these children's lives forever.
The first realization of Iqbal's determination in the novel came when Iqbal started cutting his prized carpet right in front of his master. I thought that Iqbal would somehow rebel, but I had no idea how far he would take it. His rebellion increased when he ran away for first time. It then occurred to me that his master could give him the worst punishment and it didn't matter; this kid was not going to give up.
I knew that Iqbal hadn't reached his goal, even after he finally escaped and freed the rest of the children from the carpet factory. When Iqbal decided to stay with Eshan Khan and the Bonded Labor Liberation Front of Pakistan, all I asked myself was, "How much of an impact will Iqbal have on terminating child labor in Pakistan?"
As I soon found out, Iqbal had major impact on helping other children reach freedom. I was overwhelmed with joy when I read he had freed about two hundred children from eleven different carpet factories. He put himself in incomputable danger every time he went to save someone, and yet he didn't care. All he wanted to do was help people.
Although the story told through Fatima was inspiring, I didn't realize the enormous impact this novel had on me until the very end. When I learned that thirteen¬-year-old Iqbal had been shot to death, I was shocked. I was so unprepared for this tragic ending, and it took me a couple of days to wrap my mind around it. I didn't cry; I was too stunned.
Once the realization kicked in, I was frustrated. He had helped his society greatly, and yet he was another victim to the harsh world of child labor. I then decided that this couldn't be the end. Even though Iqbal was dead, I wanted to see the lasting impact he had on people. So I started researching.
What I found was what truly inspired me. As I started researching, I found hundreds of web sites dedicated to preserving Iqbal's memory and determined to carry out his goals. People from all over the world were touched by one boy's dreams. One site in particular that I found was about Iqbal coming to speak to a middle school in Massachusetts. These children were so inspired that they built a school in his honor in Pakistan.
Through my research, I started to think. If one boy barely thirteen years old can change the views of millions of people, why can't we all? I then started to look into what I could do to help people in my community. I got involved in Girl Scouts and youth mission projects. When my mom started working for the One Campaign, I wrote a persuasive essay to a class explaining the importance of getting involved. I also went to Benton Harbor, Michigan and worked with the community to help at a nursing home and a child center, as well as painting a disabled man's home.
I started looking deeper into what I could do to help in the fight against child labor. It was then I started writing a letter to Congressman Leonard Boswell, explaining the importance of not only getting involved in ending child labor over seas, but as well as here in America.
The major impact that Iqbal and his story has on me is that now I have an idea of what I want to do with my life. My dream is to become a lawyer and fight to end child labor not only in Pakistan, but as well as other countries. I now realize that child labor is a major part of society, and the only way to stop it is to stand united against it. Everyone deserves to have an untroubled childhood and a proper education, and I intend to fight so that every child may receive it. Thank you, Ms. D' Adamo, for opening my eyes to the cruelty of child labor, and for showing me that one person's voice can have a tremendous impact on the world. Iqbal wasn't afraid to stand up and fight for what he believes in, and now, neither am 1.