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IJM Partner Provides Frontline COVID-19 Relief in Devastating Second Wave

Throughout India's second COVID-19 wave in April and May, IJM’s compassionate front-line partners continued providing critical relief to impoverished children and families when they need it most.

The aggressive nature of the spring surge left most states in strict lockdowns, making it harder for NGOs to support poor communities like they did throughout 2020. In some cases, however, IJM’s partners were granted permission to provide urgent food and hygiene relief to vulnerable families, including survivors of bonded labour and human trafficking.

One such partner is Cross Global, a small organisation working in the state of Tamil Nadu. Their founder Kamal Raj was exposed to the issue of bonded labour through a local IJM speaking engagement in 2012 and then decided to join the fight for justice in 2016 after watching a TED talk from IJM’s CEO Gary Haugen. He launched Cross Global in 2017 to help support survivors of bonded labour in their recovery and protect other communities vulnerable to trafficking.

Over the years, Cross Global has helped gather signatures for advocacy campaigns, raise funds for a survivor whose house burned down, and train survivor leaders on basic computer skills. In every engagement, Raj says his team is inspired by the resilience of these survivors despite their circumstances.

“Despite the trauma that the survivors have gone through, I see a lot of potential in survivors of bonded labour,” he says. “All they need is a little support. I believe that we as an organization can give it.”

As COVID-19 began surging in April and May 2021, Cross Global raised nearly 200,000 rupees (about $2,700 USD) to provide relief packages for survivor families who were sick or locked down at home and unable to work. In May, they worked with a network of survivor leaders called the Released Bonded Laborers Association (RBLA) to identify 100 needy families and distribute kits in the districts of Kancheepuram, Tiruvallur, Chengelpet and Vellore.

Each ration kit cost about 1,800 rupees ($24) and included: rice, all-purpose flour, wheat flour, tamarind, masala spices, turmeric, coffee, lentils, sugar, salt, oil, tea, toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, laundry detergent, and herbal supplements for health. These essential supplies are enough to keep a family going as they wait for the pandemic to abate and the lockdowns to end.

Kamal shared, “The second wave of this pandemic made the poor more vulnerable to trafficking for cheap labour. This often pushes them further in to debt and exploitation. My team and I strive hard to support these families fight starvation and abuse [and] helping them sustain through this pandemic. Knowing that each of them is safe today helps me sleep better every day.”

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The COVID-19 Pandemic has worsened the conditions that lead to vulnerability and exploitation. IJM is working to find and restore victims of bonded labour throughout India whilst partnering with local organisations and law enforcement to strengthen local justice systems.

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IJM’s May COVID-19 Update

COVID-19 has undeniably shaken our entire global community. Despite the complications caused by restrictions on content and movement, our committed teams all around the world continue to fight for justice and provide support for those who need it most. We’d love to share their work with you, so here’s some highlights!

7 Ways Covid-19 Has Affected IJM's Work

The world is changing, but the work of justice is just as important as ever! In the midst of all the changes, we know this for certain: there is still reason to hope and still reason to keep fighting for justice.

Survivors Powerfully Respond to Covid-19 Needs In Local Communities

IJM teams across India have responded to the world's largest nationwide lockdown with compassion and rapid action, with released bonded labourers leading the response efforts.

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