Roopa’s childhood was filled with fond memories of school, playing with her little brother, and a safe home.
Her carefree life came to an abrupt end when her parents sought out new work in a nearby brick kiln.
They hoped this new job would secure a better future for the family, but instead, 6-year-old Roopa was thrust into a life of slavery.
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For the next 13 years, Roopa and her family endured constant violence and backbreaking labour.
Every day from 2:00 in the morning until 9:00 at night, they molded, hauled, and stacked hundreds of clay bricks.
Even worse was the constant abuse. Roopa recalls through tears seeing her own mother being sexually assaulted by the kiln owner. There was no one there to help.
In hopes of protecting their daughter, Roopa’s parents arranged for her to marry a young man in the kiln named Banaiah. He had also grown up in slavery, and he tried his best to give them a good home.
When she was 16, Roopa became pregnant with her first child. She was still forced to work, and in her eighth month, an accident sent Roopa into an excruciating early labour.
Unwilling to allow Roopa to see a doctor, the kiln owner callously let the young woman writhe in agony, bleeding and screaming for a day and a half before finally delivering her still born baby.
She collapsed shortly afterward and almost died, but within a week, she was forced back to work again, bleeding, swollen, and helpless.
"The owner never allowed me to take rest through all this pain.” She says quietly, "he verbally abused me every day”.
A few years later, Roopa became pregnant again and gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. Meeting their son Vijay made Roopa and Banaiah even more determined to fight for a better life for their new family a life of freedom.
Every child deserves a life free from violence. Your gifts help make it possible.
Bravely, the couple made their escape late one night. For the next six months, they lived in the forest, surviving on the small income made by selling firewood.
Although they were out of the brick kiln, Roopa and Banaiah still lived in constant fear that the owner would find them.
Their worst nightmare became reality when they were discovered by the kiln owner in the village.
It happened when they made what was meant to be a brief trip back to the village to bring baby Vijay to the doctor. Just as Banaiah left to get them a meal, the kiln owner spotted Roopa and the baby and dragged them back to the kiln.
Banaiah was left frantic and terrified—searching for anyone who could help. At last, he was connected to a local NGO who had been trained by IJM just one week before on bonded labour slavery cases like these.
This team quickly called IJM and the anti-trafficking police, and together we planned a rescue operation to free Roopa and arrest the abusive kiln owner.
"The police told me not to worry—they would get me out of here,” Roopa says about being rescued.
In November 2015, Roopa, Banaiah, and their beautiful son Vijay tasted true freedom for the first time in their lives.
After the rescue, Roopa and her family joined IJM’s two-year aftercare program to help them recover from the abuse and rebuild life in freedom. Banaiah secured a good job in a small manufacturing plant and Roopa plans to take up tailoring and handicrafting to help support her family.
This past June, Roopa and Banaiah welcomed a healthy baby girl into their lives. Thanks to donors like you, their daughter was born free.
As the proud parents reflect on their experience, they express joy and hope of a bright future for their children.
"We want them to be well-educated and find a good job,” they tell us, "our kids should not go through what we endured.”