When Damru and Hemanthi first became pregnant, they were thrilled. But three months after their daughter was born, she ran a high fever. With no medical facility nearby, they had to wait until the morning to be transported to a doctor 20 kilometres away.
An hour after they arrived at the hospital, their precious child died.
Hemanthi became pregnant again but this time, their child only lived for a matter of minutes.
Wanting a fresh start, Damru borrowed money to begin construction on a home for his family.
When Hemanthi became pregnant a third time, they were overjoyed. After the construction on their home was completed, they welcomed a sweet little boy named Durga into the world.
They still needed enough income to pay back the loan, so the small family decided to find work.
A local recruiter offered well-paying jobs at a poultry farm 1,000 kilometres away. They soon realized the good job was a lie.
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The “recruiter” was a human trafficker.
They were immediately put to work scrubbing bird droppings from the floors and walls. The farm owner vaguely promised to build their living quarters later.
While Damru and Hemanthi were feeding, watering and disinfecting 6,000 chickens on the farm every day, they were constantly worried about their son. With toxic chemicals surrounding them, little Durga regularly suffered from diarrhea, colds, coughs and skin allergies.
When it came time for bed, the family slept in a run-down barn with thousands of chickens. They arranged plastic sacks to keep from sleeping on the wet, rotten ground.
Hemanthi remembers, “Snakes and scorpions used to enter the shed and at night, I used to put my son in between sacks of chicken feed to protect him from getting bitten by them. Every night we used to go to sleep not knowing if we will wake up the next morning.”
After two months of harsh conditions and no pay, they witnessed the owner violently beat another labourer at the farm. They were terrified.
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One day Damru learned his mother was seriously ill and pleaded with the owner of the farm for his family to see her. Hemanthi and Durga were allowed to visit, but Damru decided to bravely stay behind so that his family could be free.
“We had decided that Hemanthi would stay [at their home in Odisha] and not return. I did not know what the owner would do with me, but I gave her our mobile phone and asked her to get back to the village and keep our son safe,” said Damru.
At a train station, two IJM informants saw Hemanthi and noticed how distraught she appeared. They found out about her enslavement, and government officials were immediately called.
The race to rescue Damru was on.
Hemanthi was desperate to see her husband in freedom and waited patiently for five days before the operation went forward. She even managed to reach him by phone and tell him the plan.
Damru continued working at the farm, wondering what might happen. In his mind, he only imagined two or three men would arrive for the rescue. He was awestruck at what he saw.
Today, Damru and Hemanthi are living in their new home free from slavery. They are free to raise their child in peace. Free to live a joyful life.
There are still over 40 million people living in slavery. With a gift today, you can send rescue to families like Damru and Hemanthi’s who are waiting for freedom.
This Father's Day you can give gifts of rescue and freedom.
If you were to meet Damru and Hemanthi today, you would walk down a narrow, dusty road in the Indian state of Odisha. Their village is small, and their home is plain and clean. Hemanthi carries little Durga on her waist and drops him off at preschool before heading to work at a local farm.
Durga yells “BYE-BYE!” in his sweet, high-pitched squeal.