shield arrow-simple-alt-top arrow-simple-alt-left arrow-simple-alt-right arrow-simple-alt-bottom facebook instagram linkedin medium pinterest rss search-alt twitter video-play arrow-long-right arrow-long-left arrow-long-top arrow-long-bottom arrow-simple-right arrow-simple-left arrow-simple-bottom readio arrow-simple-top speaker-down plus minus cloud hb pin camera globe cart rotate star edit arrow-top arrow-right arrow-left arrow-bottom check search close square speaker-up speaker-mute return play pause love
Back to Stories

Suriya's Story

21c8 hero

Before he was enslaved, Suriya loved to dream.

Suriya had big dreams for his future—until a trafficker took advantage of his family.
*Stock photo of actor. Not a victim of trafficking.

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

21c8 img 1

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.

21c8 img 2

Suriya’s mother was completely out of options when she was approached by a neighbouring 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 labour.

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.

21c8 img 3

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

21c8 img 4

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 labour, 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 labour?

Slave owners know they can find cheap child labour 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.

Suriya Real
The real Suriya

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.

You might also be interested in…

see more

Newsletter Sign Up

Stay connected to the work! Sign up to get updates straight to your inbox.

Media Contact

We're here to answer your questions. Please fill out the form below and someone from our team will follow up with you soon.

Make an Impact

Your skills, talents, and ideas are a force for change. From birthday parties to polar dips, your fundraising campaign can stop the violence.

Learn More

Thank you for signing up to learn more about starting a fundraiser. We will be in touch soon!

In the meantime, please take a look at our free guide: 25 Tips for the Novice Fundraiser.

Need Help?

Need more information?
We're here to help.
Contact us at