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In the Heart of the Forest

I toil in the forest’s heart, where towering trees whisper secrets to the heavens. A child amidst giants. My hands—meant for games and laughter—cling to the rough handle of my axe.

At 11, I am a modern-day enigma trapped in an age-old struggle. My body hunches beneath the weight. Apologetically, I press my axe against the base of the tree, ancient and wise. It looms over me as I strike, each blow a plea for freedom.

As I toil beneath the canopy, I think of “The Newsies” who dared to dream of better days. They rose against the giants of industry, their voices echoing through the streets of New York. Power in unity, strength to go on strike.

Here in the woods, unity is shattered by gnarled hands. Striking is a luxury we thirteen siblings can't afford, for our labor lines the pockets of an unnatural class. Not the wealthy, but our parents—who look to us to provide. Each strike of my axe was a blow against my future.

My axe strikes, like my cries, on deaf ears. Its relentless hunger devours innocence—now an endangered species.

There are no headlines to scream. Not here. It’s just a stunning paradox. Fourteen states are rolling back laws to shield us in a free country where child labor violations surge.

Sacrificed at the altar of indifference, my dreams remain imprisoned.

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