With my roommate leaving and recently booking my return ticket, I have been reflecting more than usual lately .. Ive been thinking about how enriching this entire experience has been and how encouraged I am as we seek justice for the poor. My heart overflows to tears of joy and I can hardly imagine returning home on May 6th and not doing this work any longer. Sigh … What to do, what to do …
We had our first operation for the year just last week. 42 labourers were rescued from a rock quarry where they were abused and held against their will. Now they are free to live an autonomous life as they start from scratch. IJM news states, “Six children received the government-issued release certificates, along with 25 adults who were forced to work in the rock quarry as slaves. The release certificates cancel any alleged or outstanding debts to the owner and entitle each individual to rehabilitation funds set aside by the government for former forced labor slaves.” Now they can make independent choices as they have been granted the freedom every human being deserves: the freedom to make daily decisions in the mundane and ordinary. You can read IJM’s post about this operation on their website.
In October, Passion came to our office to video one of our laborers, Raman, to show at Passion 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia. The entire film is available for viewing on You Tube. I’ve added it to the You Tube tab as well.
Yesterday I had a unique opportunity. At the last minute my director asked if I could do a high profile trip with the US consulate so they could obtain information to write the G/TIP report (Trafficking in Persons Report for the US government). This report is generated by meeting with local NGOs and analyzing the data to determine an area’s level of prevention, protection, and prosecution. Each tier receives a certain amount of foreign aid and so the G/TIP report helps to guide the ranking and distributing of foreign aid. So yesterday, I got in their bullet-proof car and we drove to a village that was four hours away to meet with a family who was released from bondage in 2007. On the way there we had a long chat about IJM’s work to eradicate bonded labor and I had the opportunity to share how feeding and educating the poor would fail to promote national development. Case in point: Even if education is available, families of the Irular tribe stop sending their daughters to school once they hit puberty because they fear they will be raped and become pregnant. This is just one example of how the accessibility of education doesn’t ensure long-term economic development. So, rather than focusing on relief alone one must see how most poor people are exploited and violently oppressed, making relief and even education a temporary aid; and, in order to promote development for the poor one must influence the public justice system (and other systems as well) by learning from casework and then providing trainings on Best Practices to high and local officials, policy makers, educators, stakeholders, and power actors.
We sat with the laborers and listened to their story of extreme neglect, abuse, and how their children suffered. Rice work required them to work through the night (300-2200 hrs), including their children. When they tried to sleep, the house the owner built for them flooded, and their daughter cried due to the tumor in her leg that went untreated for one year. A relative told them about IJM and that’s when they escaped to tell someone about the conditions of the facility, but the owner found them, beat them, and took them captive along with additional family members as punishment. But now, they are free. They have a charcoal-making business and their children are attending school. When asked how their life is different after being released from the facility, they said:
“We are happy. When we finish work we can go home and we get paid as we should since it’s our business. Now our kids go to school and before now they were working in the facility. If we need to go to the doctor we can go because we have saved money. We help our community because we don’t want others to suffer like we did.”