Selvam was just a small baby when his family moved to a rice mill in South Asia — a place they wouldn’t leave for the next twenty years. His parents became trapped there because they had borrowed money from the brutal mill owner to cover their family's daily needs. He forced them to work without enough wages to repay their debt, so his parents became resigned to raising Selvam and his sisters in bondage.
Every day, he and his mother and sisters would wash, clean and boil rice, and then lay it out in the sun to dry, while his father carried heavy rice sacks to the mill. Once, his father collapsed from the toiling, but the mill owner wouldn’t let him seek treatment. “There were many days we did not have enough food,” says Selvam.
Thousands of families are trapped in modern-day slavery in South Asia and around the world.
For a few years Selvam was allowed to leave the mill to go to school, but one day when he was 14, the mill owner threw away his books and forced Selvam to drop out of school. He refused to let the family ever leave the mill, which was sealed by a heavy steel gate.
When he was twenty, Selvam devised a plan to escape for a night to see a dying relative. He bravely scaled the wall, left the mill and took a train to where his relative lived. After seeing his relative, Selvam made the journey back to his family, realizing he would be punished by the mill owner.
Selvam's love for family was stronger than his fear of violence — but that fear was never realized. When Selvam returned, the mill and the mill owner's house was empty. Because of friends like you, IJM and government partners rescued Selvam’s family. The mill owner was arrested. Selvam missed the rescue team by hours, but he and his family were finally free.
With your help, we are actively working to rescue more families like Selvam’s. Please give today.
Selvam participated in IJM's aftercare program after his family was rescued, and today his life is restored. Committed to helping others who have gone through what his family suffered, Selvam became a driver on the IJM team and has gone on many rescue operations. Leading to the rescue of more people and families.
“I am so grateful for the opportunity to work with IJM and do the work of justice,” Selvam says.
Gifts given by 11:59 p.m. on March 31 will double in impact up to a total of $300,000. Any amount above that total will be used to meet IJM's most urgent needs.