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Sunday, November 28, 2010

What's in a Bicycle?

Here is an example of some of the after care efforts that the International Justice Mission provides to those they rescue. Something as simple as a bicycle can mean the difference between simply surviving vs. thriving.
In India, Former Slaves Explore Freedom - On Bicycles(Information taken from IJM web site http://www.ijm.org/)
Thursday, 26 August 2010
BANGALORE, INDIA – What does a bicycle mean? This symbol of sport and leisure for many signifies something quite different in IJM’s anti-slavery casework in India. To a recently-rescued victim of forced labor slavery, a bicycle can be a pivotal tool in the emancipation process, as it expands life choices, broadens horizons and makes the long road to freedom easier to travel.
Being able to travel freely is a new experience for some IJM clients. While trapped in slavery, even if granted permission to temporarily leave the facility, forced laborers are often required to leave a family member behind as “collateral” to ensure their swift return. They watch those who try to escape suffer brutal beatings. Every day, they are reminded that they live in a confined world; they are not free to leave, to move.

IJM Bangalore clients, including Theerthagiri (top image, far left), test out their new bicycles.After partnering with local authorities to rescue victims of slavery, IJM walks alongside the former slaves, empowering them to rebuild their lives after years inside the brick kiln, rock quarry or rice mill. And as part of this process, IJM Bangalore invests in clients’ futures by presenting them with their own bicycles. Regional Aftercare Manager Robert Amirtharaj explains: “IJM decided to give bicycles to released victims when we realized the potential this simple, often taken for granted provision could have on the lives of deserving victims and their families.”

New OpportunitiesA bicycle mobilizes freed slaves in several ways. Bicycles can play a critical role in generating income for families who have their own small farms, as it provides a means to bring their produce to the market for sale. One client explains, “My brother takes the [bicycle] to go to the closest market, which is seven kilometers away from our village,” as he is unable to do so himself, due to chronic pain from injuries he sustained at the hands of a kiln owner. A bicycle also supports even more basic elements of the rehabilitation process by enabling essential transportation for those who live in rural villages – particularly significant in finding fair-paying, sustainable employment. Many IJM clients live so remotely that a bicycle provides newfound mobility; in the most remote villages buses come rarely, and not at fixed times, so they cannot be relied upon for daily transportation to jobs outside of the village. But with the bicycle, IJM client Theerthagiri explains he can “go to work on time and finish work and go home at the end of the day,” rather than remain at the facility overnight due to the lack of bus service.
We realized the potential this simple, often taken for granted provision could have.— Robert Amirtharaj, IJM Regional Aftercare Manager Being able to travel for work opens up new opportunities: Rather than settling for underpaid work and treatment reminiscent of their former bondage simply because a job is nearby, these men and women can take advantage of expanded options to secure adequate compensation for their labor.As one client explains, “I take the bicycle and I go to work in a town five kilometers from here. When I go there for work, I get paid more there than at my village.” “Now we are happy to go to work” Theerthagiri, who was rescued from slavery in a brick kiln in May 2009 and received a bicycle in October 2009, conveys how the bicycle has impacted his life: “Since receiving the bicycle, [my wife and I] are happy… I used to feel discouraged … because I had to travel such long distances… [But] having the bicycle helps me look around for work. Finding work has become relatively easy now that we have a way to get around. Now we are happy to go to work, even if it’s farther away…We can get there in time and go back home afterward.”
IJM Bangalore aftercare workers determine which clients will receive a bicycle case-by-case, based on compelling need or circumstance and stewardship of other IJM provisions. Currently, the program is in its initial stages, but the hope is to continue and expand this endeavor. Robert explains, “The reasons for giving bicycles may seem obvious or commonsensical, but when we consider these in the context of their life situations, the bicycles become quite profound as we better understand the clients’ needs.”

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