This is the story of Leslie Fielding, an orphaned boy living at the Hackney Workhouse, London, England. It will be your story during this activity.

My name is Leslie Henry Fielding. I'm 12 or 13 years old. Well, I think I'm 13, but nobody here seems to really know whether I was born in 1900 or 1901. I arrived here at the workhouse with my mother on December 27, 1911. Things went from bad to worse for me and my mum before she left me here.

I don't remember much about my father except that mum said that he was a master cordwainer (shoemaker) and a fine one, too, just like his father and grandfather before him. I guess I won't get to become a cordwainer. With all those cheap factory-made shoes he just couldn't make a go of it. We moved around a lot, but times always got worse. We found refuge in many Church of England cathedrals.

Finally dad took off and we were on our own. What could mum do except clean houses! What she earned could hardly pay the rent. Before Christmas we tried to walk to Holly Walks to stay with mum's Uncle Charles. We never did find Uncle Charles. Mum started coughing because of the cold rain and having to sleep outside. We decided to return to London but couldn't find any place to live because we couldn't pay the rent.

Mum didn't want to spend Christmas in the workhouse, so we slept in a culvert for 2 nights, but it just kept raining and mum's cough just got worse.

Mum stayed at the workhouse until April 3, 1912, and promised me she would return for me. But Dr. Barnardo says that I had best think about a new life in one of the colonies. I go to school here, but I can't read hardly at all and the bully boys keep thumping me up because I'm puny for my age.

I hear a lot about Dr. Barnardo's homes in Canada. They say if we go to work on a farm in Manitoba we will get our own trunks of new clothes, new boots and a nice home with lots of farmland. I've heard about the cowboys and Indians in the West. Wouldn't that be exciting? I heard that if we work hard on the farms the farmers will put some money aside for us so that we can make a fresh start in a new land when we grow up.

I haven't seen or heard from my mother in over a year. Dr. Barnardo says that we can go to Australia or Canada.

What should I do?

I wonder?