Bonachea Discusses Research on Turkish Child Labor in Lorant Fellow Presentation

Halfway around the world, some children in Turkey were settling in for a day of labor as students at Andover were donning their costumes for Halloween.

“Today is Halloween, one of the happiest days for children in the United States—a day to celebrate the innocence and joy of childhood. In Turkey, for laboring children, this is an ordinary day as the harvesting season culminates before the onset of winter,” said Rolando Bonachea ’13 during All-School Meeting (ASM) on Wednesday.

Bonachea was selected last spring as the recipient of the Lorant Fellowship for Most Earnest Endeavor, a grant awarded to a member of the Upper Class. Bonachea used the fellowship to study in Washington, D.C. and to travel to Turkey to take a firsthand look at child labor this past summer.

During his presentation, Bonachea chronicled his six weeks of travel from Ankara to Istanbul, during which he explored the working conditions of children in textile mills, sweatshops and cotton plantations.

“I wasn’t expecting how widespread and severe [the child labor] actually is. It just astonished me that children would be forced to work 12 hours a day for the equivalent of 93 cents,” said Bonachea.

By visiting the homes of children who worked in sweatshops, Bonachea was able to gain a deeper understanding of the effects of poverty on families. During one of his visits, a father offered to sell his 12-year-old daughter to Bonachea for about 12,000 U.S. dollars, equivalent to about five years’ worth of labor. He even offered to sell his 10-year-old daughter, but at a higher price.

In Turkey, Bonachea also met with members of the U.S. Embassy, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Mother and Child Development Organization (MCDO) to discuss, through an interpreter, the grave extent of child labor in the country.

Prior to his trip to Turkey, Bonachea spent five weeks in Washington, D.C., where he interned in the House of Representatives, interviewed government officials about child labor, organized Turkish contacts and studied basic Turkish.

According to Bonachea, he spoke to officials at the State Department, Department of Labor, Voice of America, Center of Strategic and International Studies about the status of child labor in Turkey.

“Individuals and [non-governmental organizations] have definitely helped Turkey a lot, but I feel like the problem will only be eliminated if the Turkish government takes active action,” said Bonachea.

“It’s important that [the U.S.] projects its influence and that we give economic aid to the Turkish government to prod them in the right direction,” he continued.

The Lorant Fellowship Committee selected Bonachea from an original pool of approximately 60 candidates nominated by their peers at Andover. The committee first narrowed the pool to three finalists, who shared their grant proposals over dinner.

“Basically, we [looked] for Uppers who have proven to be hard-working, reliable, positive and unrelenting in the activities they take part in on campus,” said Dale Hurley, Co-Director of the Lorant Fellowship Committee and Instructor in Math. He added that the committee looked for proposals that were “unique, compassionate and feasible.”

“Unique means we want to be impressed with the ingenuity of the proposal. Compassionate–we want the student to have a strong connection with what they are trying to do. Feasible–it has to be both doable and safe,” said Hurley.

Interested in current events, politics and economics, Bonachea was fascinated by the dependence of Turkey, the fifteenth largest economy in the world, on child labor. According to Hurley, Bonachea impressed the committee with his attention to detail in his proposal, his travel plan and his passion for the subject matter.

Elizabeth Oppong ’12, recipient of last year’s Lorant Fellowship, said “I can tell [Bonachea] is an extremely hard-working and determined person, and I think he and the other two finalists are great examples to all of us of the importance of hard work and earnestness in academia.”

The Lorant Fellowship was created by Mark Efinger ’74, former Chair of the Lorant Fellowship Committee and Instructor in Theatre and Dance, and Andrew Lorant ’48, who believed that hard work itself, and not necessarily the achievement, is the reward for earnest endeavor throughout one’s activities.

The fellowship was established after a student turned down the Sarah Abbot Award in 1995 on the grounds that Andover’s emphasis on competition had led her to push herself harder than she should have, according to a previous article in The Phillipian.

“The Lorant Fellowship gives students an unparalleled opportunity to grow and learn about themselves [at] one of the most crucial points of their academic careers,” said Oppong.

Hurley said, “In the long term, we hope that [the fellowship] will empower the Lorant Fellows to go on to do great things in our world and also have a lasting effect on those who see what one person, who is earnest, can accomplish.”