Like most ten-year-old boys, Suriya was a dreamer. If you asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up, his answer might change depending on the day. A famous singer, an artist, a policeman, a pilot, a cricket player. When he dreamed about his future, the sky was the limit. Nothing felt out of reach.
But Suriya didn’t know a storm was coming, and his life was moments away from falling apart.
One day, a cyclone hit Southern India and devastated Suriya’s village. Suriya, his mother and his siblings were able to escape the destruction of the storm unharmed, but his father wasn’t as fortunate. He was rushed to the hospital and treated for serious injuries. He didn't survive.
Give today to help children like Suriya reclaim their freedom
Suriya’s mother was left with her grief, a destroyed home, massive medical debt and funeral costs she could not afford. On top of all this, she had her precious children to provide for and protect.
Suriya’s mother was completely out of options when she was approached by a neighboring farmer. He offered her a loan to help pay for the repair of her home, the medical debt and her husband’s funeral. The farmer knew Suriya’s mother would have no choice but to accept the loan.
But this loan came at a cost no parent should ever have to pay – the cost of her little boy’s freedom. Suriya was forced to herd goats for the farmer indefinitely to pay an unending debt – a type of modern-day slavery common in India called bonded labor.
Because of their poverty, Suriya’s family was in a desperate situation. His mother had no choice, and her little boy was taken.
Protect families like Suriya’s from being trapped in modern-day slavery
At only ten years old, Suriya’s dreams, childhood and freedom were taken.
Instead of the loving embrace of his mother, Suriya was beaten repeatedly with a stick.
Instead of walking to school in the morning, he was forced to herd over 200 goats alone for miles.
Instead of sleeping next to his siblings, he slept in an open field with nothing but a small towel to protect him from the scorpions, snakes and pouring rain.
“I accepted the fact that this was my reality now... that there was no way out,” Suriya told IJM. “I was scared to fall asleep because I was scared to dream.”
Help give children like Suriya a way out
But this was not the end of Suriya’s story. You helped give him a way out.
In partnership with a local organization in India that helps combat forced labor, IJM helped find Suriya, bring him to safety and fight for justice against the man who exploited his family.
When you give, children like Suriya are rescued from slavery and restored to wholeness. Suriya not only returned to his family, but he also received financial compensation from the man who enslaved him.
What is bonded labor?
Slave owners know they can find cheap child labor by offering quick funds to families in desperate situations. Interest is then added to a loan at a rate that makes it impossible to pay off, forcing children like Suriya to work with no end in sight.
Today, Suriya is no longer scared to dream. When we found him, he was silent and closed off. Now he is carefree, with a quiet confidence and curiosity about the world. Now he dreams of becoming a pilot, so he can reach new heights he’s never reached before. He’s singing again. He’s back at school.
His journey towards a happy ending has begun. But millions of children are still waiting for their journey of healing to begin. With your help, we can continue to find, rescue and protect these children, and take one more step towards a future where every child is safe and free.
*Stock images taken with consent used to depict Suriya before his rescue.