Rajeshwari was a 10-year-old girl who loved everything about going to school. She loved learning and longed to become a teacher when she grew up, full of innocence and big dreams for her future. But her parents fell into debt after her grandfather died ... and Rajeshwari’s dreams suddenly became a nightmare.
The 50,000 rupees ($600) needed to pay for the funeral was a burden the family couldn't bear, so Rajeshwari's father, Kumar, turned to a local lender who loaned him the money in exchange for labor in his brick kiln. What Kumar did not understand at the time was that there was no end to this deal, and his entire family would have to work alongside him to repay a debt that could never be repaid.
So instead of going to school, Rajeshwari went to work with her parents in the brick kiln, breathing in thick dust as they made bricks day after day. They were only rarely permitted to exit the grounds one person at a time — a method used by kiln owners to ensure that families can never escape together.
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Rajeshwari labored in the brick kiln for three long years before IJM became aware of the family’s situation. Planning a rescue operation proved difficult because the brick kiln was in a dense area surrounded by more than 100 other similar kilns. Any outsiders would be spotted immediately and put in danger by the suspicious owners.
The team was able to secretly give Rajeshwari's father a smartphone one day at the local market to help guide them to the family’s location. But when the time for rescue came, they were overwhelmed and had difficulty with the technology. That is when Rajeshwari became the hero of her own story.
Using her incredible memory, she drew a richly detailed map and sent it over the smartphone to the IJM rescue team. It was the family’s only shot at finding freedom safely.
“It was amazing to see how precisely each tree she drew fit into the path to the site,” an IJM investigator on the case said. “She gave the team all the information they needed to get to the correct location and save the family.”
“Today, after rescue, my dreams are coming true one by one,” a now 16-year-old Rajeshwari shares joyfully. “I am happy I am back at school studying. I want to become a teacher and make sure every child in my community values education.”
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