IJM Chennai Helps Former Slave Build a Dream

Ravi and his wife are proudly raising their daughters in freedom.
Ravi and his wife are proudly raising their daughters in freedom.

CHENNAI, INDIA – Ravi had a dream. It's a simple dream that many fathers around the world share: To provide a home for his family.

But Ravi was a slave. He and his wife were trapped in a rice mill, forced to work as slaves as they also tried to raise two daughters. IJM worked with local authorities to rescue Ravi's family from that rice mill over a year ago, and they returned to their home village. Suddenly, Ravi was free to dream.

IJM walks closely with former slaves to ensure they receive the care and services they need to rebuild lives in freedom. Although emancipated slaves receive funds from the Indian government when they are issued official release certificates, the transition back into their former communities is not easy.

IJM social workers help families find job opportunities and ensure children are enrolled in local schools as soon as possible. IJM hosts monthly meetings for former slaves living in close proximity to one another, encouraging them to support their peers in the difficult transition and teaching basic seminars on topics like finance. Social workers also visit each family regularly.

On the first visit to Ravi's home, IJM social worker Barnabus Pravin found the family huddled together under a patch of trees where their house once stood. The house had burned to the ground in an accident. Ravi asked Barnabus to help him build a new house – a concrete house. Although a traditional thatched-roof hut would have been less expensive, Ravi wanted this dream to last.

"Ravi was committed to making his dream a reality...determined to give his daughters a safe and steady future."
– IJM Chennai social worker

The first step was to apply for a land patta, government-issued documentation that essentially serves as a deed to a piece of land. IJM helped Ravi fill out the application so that he could secure the land and begin construction as soon as possible.

Determined to build his house without incurring any debt, Ravi started working as a woodcutter. Most of the government rehabilitation money he received with his release certificate was still in a savings account that IJM had helped him set up at the bank. But he wisely did not want to wipe out the account. So he got a second job.

"Ravi was committed to making his dream a reality," explains IJM social worker Barnabus. "He is responsible with his family's finances, determined to give his daughters a safe and steady future," continues Barnabus, who still meets regularly with the family.

Thanks to Ravi's hard work and careful planning, the concrete house was finished within seven months. Ravi's family had a secure home. And his dream was their reality.

Today, Ravi and his wife both work so they can provide for their family. His daughters are in school. Ravi plans to start a small business selling a fabric-whitening solution that he learned to make from his cousin. He also wants to take driving classes so he can become a licensed driver—professional drivers are in high demand in India and would provide a secure job opportunity.

Ravi continues to attend IJM's monthly meetings, and Barnabus says that Ravi is an exemplary leader among his peers.

Now a proud homeowner, Ravi has a place to dream new dreams.

Forced Labor Slavery, South Asia