Posted by Carol Metzker on Nov 30, 2018
At the 2014 Rotary International Convention in Sydney, Australia, a few founding Board members of the Rotarian Action Group Against Slavery-RAGAS (then called RAG Against Child Slavery) gave the first presentation about human trafficking/modern slavery at an international convention. With the opportunity to reach Rotarians all over the world, during my presentation I asked for help with a special project: to free an entire village in India from debt bondage slavery.
Although there are many forms of modern slavery--what the U.S. calls human trafficking--and it exists in every nation of the world, this project was special because of its holistic, sustainable solution.
The villagers caught in debt bondage slavery were working in brick kilns, stone quarries and farm fields to pay off debts--from loans to pay for food, medicine, or shelter for families. Slaveholders had concocted illegal schemes such that through interest and other costs, the debt would never be repaid. Generations of families were trapped in violence, hunger, lack of education and loss of all rights and freedom.
The organization, Voices4Freedom, together with Indian frontline workers from organization MSEMVS, knew that freedom, financial strength to pay for families basic needs and community development started with education. Everything needed for a three-year process of educating children about reading, writing, math, hygiene, safety and rights; and teaching parents vocational skills and human rights, plus all the supporting pieces such as children's lunches and a village solar street light, would cost $36,000--just $120 per villager per year. And at the end of the process, the entire village would be self-sufficient in freedom because they were mentally and financially strong enough to liberate themselves from their slaveholder.

Over a year and a half, RAGAS, 13 Rotary clubs, an Interact Club, two districts and numerous individual Rotarians (including a few from the Rotary E-Club of One World!) and others donated funds and educated groups about slavery and the process of freedom. In 2016, the village was chosen and the school was built and staffed by V4F and MSEMVS.
As the village entered its final phase of coming to freedom--115 out of 132 villagers now liberated--I was invited to visit it and other villages with Rotary's project partners Voices4Freedom and MSEMVS from Oct. 5 through 13, 2018. The slides and videos you're about to see bear witness to that trip.

(If you cannot see the video below on your device, click here).

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