Stories of Hope: Moments of joy that encourage us.
In a world where news is coming at us faster than ever and things feel uncertain, all of us at IJM wanted to give you something that we have a lot of — hope.
Our survivors have always shown us that in the midst of darkness there is still light. We know that sharing their stories won’t stop a pandemic, but it may give us a little extra motivation as we pray for those affected and help our neighbours. We hope you’ll find encouragement in a few of our most joyful moments!
One Home Restored — 162 Made Safe
The skies were pouring rain, but it was one of the brightest days in a long time for Hellen.
Years prior, the widow had made the hard decision to flee in the face of a devastating war in Uganda. When the war subsided, she and her many family members returned home, only to find that her neighbours had begun to claim her land as their own and violently refused to relinquish it.
The neighbours' assaults left Hellen and her extended family — her children, siblings, and grandchildren — terrified to sleep in their owns homes and farm their own land. But Hellen didn't give up.
She bravely reported the attack to local authorities and IJM took up Hellen’s case in 2013. After two hard-fought years, they were able to secure justice. The criminals were sentenced to six months of community service — a major victory in a community where crimes against women rarely go punished at all.
What you see here is the day that local officials helped demarcate the boundaries of Hellen’s land so she and her family would be safer in the future.
As she ducked into the back of a car for shelter from the rain, Hellen carefully stamped her thumbprint on official documents outlining the boundary agreements. Despite the weather, a crowd gathered to witness and celebrate this moment when she and her 161 dependents would finally be safe at home.
Hope in a Mom's Embrace
Meet Jakelin and her son. This sweet moment, in the video below, is an outtake from an IJM documentary that was being created about Jakelin. Of course, this loving little boy didn’t know that, and Jakelin, being such a caring mom, didn’t hesitate to embrace her boy.
What Jakelin’s son also didn’t know, and couldn’t have known, is the number of harrowing and unspeakable moments his mom had lived through before he came into the picture.
Her father perpetrated horrific violence on her entire family, including many forms of physical abuse and forcing his children into labour.
One day, Jakelin’s mother took her children and reported the crimes to the police, hoping for a miracle. Without the resources to hire a lawyer, the family had little hope that the justice system would actually work for them. It was at this point when IJM learned of Jakelin’s family, provided a skilled lawyer, and ultimately saw Jakelin take the tremendously brave step of testifying against her father. He received an 8-year prison sentence because of the strength of this family and the courage of Jakelin.
Now, because of her strength as well as IJM’s intervention, Jakelin is safe and dreaming of the future. A future that includes telling her story, advocating for the rights of those who have lost their voice, and of course, sharing many more tender moments with her son.
Watch the video.
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The Sound of Good News
In Bolivia, our team protects children from sexual violence. In spite of the seriousness of the work, each staff member has a matraca, a noisemaker, perched on their desks. When the “crackcrackcrack!” rings out, everyone immediately stops their work and spins their matracas in response as they come together to rejoice in good news.
In mid-2019, the good news they were celebrating was the 150th sentence they’d won over the past the 14 years. But they were celebrating more than the milestone – it’s what the milestone means.
The 150th conviction means that there are two young girls whose aggressor can’t harm them anymore. It means that there are hundreds of children who are safe and hundreds more who will never be harmed in the first place. What 150 convictions means is that a justice system that was once not working to protect its own people is now coming alive to be a force for good within Bolivia, for generations to come.
150 convictions is an amazing milestone, but it’s just the beginning. In Bolivia, and all around the world, there are people who are not safe, there are children who are exploited, and there are vulnerable individuals who need the justice system to work for them. With your help, we won't stop. We will continue to show up every day because we know that there are so many more celebrations ahead.
Watch the party.
The Wisdom of a 7-Year-Old
In early 2017, Luke* was seven and received a Make-a-Wish Trip to LEGOLAND and Walt Disney World as a result of a condition that leaves him immunocompromised. In preparation for this trip, Luke’s grandfather gave him $20 to buy a souvenir. But because Luke is Luke, he said, “I don’t want to spend my money, I want to save it up for something bigger.”
Then, after more than six months of working and saving for an epic LEGO set, Luke surprised his mom with this conversation:
Luke: “Mom, I need to give them my money.”
Mom: “Give who your money?”
Mom: “How much do you think you should give?”
Luke: “No, I need to give them all my money.”
Mom: “Are you sure?”
Luke: “Mom, I really need to do this. I need a really big envelope.”
Earlier that Sunday, Luke learned that there were people in the world who lived in slavery, who lived without hope and who needed help. Furthermore, he learned that IJM was helping. So, in the mind of this child, he needed a big envelope more than he needed big LEGO. It was just that simple.
“I want to give [my money] to slavery people. Because I don't want them to be called slavery people. I want them to be called their names.”
In this season where we’re trying to figure out what’s best for our kids and how they’ll understand big scary things like COVID-19 and distancing from friends and grandparents, may Luke’s story give all of us some hope. Hope that our kids are pretty amazing and can give us perspective and joy even in the midst of difficult times.
Finally Going Home
IJM rescued 44 boys and 32 young men who had been trafficked from their homes almost 1,000 miles away. These men and boys were forced to labour in factories, day and night, making hundreds of pieces of gold jewelry – often handling terrible chemicals and breathing metal dust without protection. It was, in short, horrific.
When IJM and local officials brought the boys to a safe location and arrested the suspects who abused them, they were overwhelmed with joy. When we told them they’d get to go home, this was their joyful response.
The person being hugged is one of our IJM staff members, and if you’re like us, we can’t stop replaying this moment. It personifies hope, joy and the beauty of what’s possible when people keep showing up and caring for those in need of rescue. Read their story here.
This is Bablu's story of hope.
Bablu’s mom, dad and sister were trapped in a life of abuse at a wood-cutting facility. A few days before he was born, IJM and local authorities investigated and got to witness not only their rescue but Bablu being born into freedom!
When we protect vulnerable people, birthday celebrations like his are possible.
COVID-19 Update from Gary Haugen, CEO and Founder of IJM
IJM’s work and mission is not only continuing but intensifying. Read more about what IJM is doing to protect vulnerable people.