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Prosecuting traffickers in India – 5 May 2011
In 2006, Debbie Walker visited India for a two-week holiday. Confronted by the horrific reality of child trafficking, she ended up spending four years there with Tearfund’s partner Freedom Firm. Reuben Coulter, Chief Executive of Tearfund Ireland, caught up with her while she was visiting her family in Ireland.
How did you get involved in with helping trafficked girls?
During my holiday in India, I met young girls who had been rescued from trafficking. They were of a similar age to me but their lives were so different. I realised that God was calling me to play a part. Tearfund partner Freedom Firm were looking for someone with legal skills and I had recently graduated in law. I agreed to undertake a role to manage the team of local investigators and ensure that rescued girls received appropriate aftercare.
How do these girls end up being trafficked?
For many girls, it is the desperation of poverty which makes them vulnerable. For example, Laxmi was only ten years old when she was trafficked. Her mother was dead and her father was desperately ill, so she got on a train to Mumbai to search of work. She thought she was being offered a job as a maid but, instead, she ended up as one of thousands of child prostitutes in Mumbai.
What happened to Laxmi?
Fortunately, an investigative team heard that the brothel where Laxmi was working had under-age girls. They sent a team in to investigate and gather evidence. In coordination with the police, the brothel was raided and Laxmi was set free from her horrific life at the age of 12.
How did Laxmi recover from the experience?
Laxmi was incredibly traumatised. She initially entered a government refuge for women but it wasn’t a good place. Eventually she came to the Freedom Firm home where we were able to counsel, support and pray with her. We couldn’t undo the past but we were able to provide her with hope for the future. Today she is completely transformed. She is part of a local church and has a good job in a call centre.
You are back in Ireland now. What will you do next?
In September I’m starting a doctorate in law in Minneapolis, USA. I’m not sure where God will lead me but I’ll continue to use my legal skills to fight injustice. Each of us has God-given talents that we are called to use for his kingdom.
Take action this summer.
- €22 a month can help set a trafficked woman free. Give monthly here or once off donation here.
- You might like to join an upcoming event or get some creative fundraising ideas here
Refugees continue to flee Ivory Coast – 22 Apr 2011
An ongoing ‘precarious’ security and political situation in Ivory Coast is expected to swell the number of refugees seeking safety in Liberia to at least 250,000 by the end of June. Unicef predicts the figure could even be as high as 500,000, as the crisis shows no sign of easing despite the arrest of former president Laurent Gbagbo.
Tearfund partners are helping thousands of Ivorians who have fled to Liberia, the vast majority of whom are women and children. Latest UN estimates say more than 140,000 refugees are now in Liberia, with 45,000 arriving in one county in just over a month.
Tearfund partners are providing healthcare to the displaced in Nimba County and clean water and sanitation and to distribute food in the adjacent Grand Geddeh County. The World Food Programme has begun airlifting food into Liberia from Niger and Mali but Unicef says the lack of supplies is a ‘major concern’.
Rainy season approaches
Another concern is that April marks the start of the rainy season and this could make getting relief aid to people harder as poor quality roads become impassable.
In Ivory Coast itself, although Alassane Ouattara is now in control, there are still pockets of resistance to his forces and outbreaks of lawlessness. Tearfund partners in Ivory Coast are to join a multi-agency assessment on returning to the western town of Duekoue, where fighting forced them to stop working three weeks ago.
- €31 can pay for school fees for a vulnerable child
- €55 can provide a family of with essential household items,water containers and blankets
You can help the refugees by giving to our Emergency Fund today
Ethnic tribes in Myanmar receive aid – 13 Apr 2011
Tearfund partners are successfully managing to bring vital aid to thousands of isolated villagers hit by a powerful earthquake in eastern Myanmar (Burma) nearly three weeks ago.
About 100 people died and another 150 were injured after a 6.8 magnitude tremor struck Eastern Shan State at the end of last month. Assessments put the number of people affected at 18,000 across 90 villages, with widespread damage to roads, bridges, schools, churches and monasteries. In the 50 most severely affected villages, more than half of all buildings have either been damaged or destroyed.
One church building in the Lahu ethnic community of Kya Kuni collapsed while a large gathering of women were inside, with 25 people reported to have been killed and many more badly injured.
Three Tearfund partners have been working in the affected areas since the immediate aftermath of the quake. Isolated ethnic Akha and Lahu communities, which have received no other outside help, are being assisted by two partners.
Food, water, medical kits, temporary shelter and non-food items, such as cooking utensils, have been supplied and work is progressing to set up a trauma care and support service for those affected. From an initial response in five villages, relief work has spread to 22 villages.
Another partner is offering help to five villages where leprosy is heavily prevalent, once again offering food aid, water and sanitation.
Partner staff also plan to set up Village Relief Committees which will help implement recovery activities, with special attention towards people with disabilities, the elderly, women and children. Using partner expertise on reducing the impact of disasters, homes will be rebuilt so they are better able to withstand future earthquakes and villagers will receive disaster response training.
Land restoration and repairs to water supplies will also be carried out.
Setting the captive free – Karishma’s story – 11 Apr 2011
It’s estimated that 575,000 children are trapped in sex trafficking in India. Tearfund’s local partner Freedom Firm is battling to stamp our sex trafficking. While the laws in India against sex trafficking are strong they are rarely applied. Freedom Firm investigates brothels suspected of soliciting minor girls, works with the police to raid these brothels, prosecutes the brothel keepers and helps to restore the girls. The work is dangerous and often disheartening but they are seeing successes. Without the intervention of Tearfund’s local partner Freedom Firm, Karishma would still be in captivity.
Karishma, a young girl age thirteen was discovered in a brothel by a Freedom Firm undercover investigator. She was ‘for sale’ for 70 rupees (€1.20).
Freedom Firm reported it to the police and requested that they intervene. But when they raided the brothel Karishma had been moved. She was no-where to be found. Freedom Firm investigators searched for her over the next five months with no success. Then a local informant gave a tip off that she had been taken to the Sadar Bazaar, a red-light district in the city of Kolhapur. However it’s a massive slum with thousands of people. It seemed she might never be found.
Then the miracle happened. After days of searching, equipped with only scant information and an old photograph of Karishma, an informant was found who recognized her from the photo. The investigators were led to a brothel on the edge of town. The building was raided and Karishma was found, traumatized but alive.
That was over four years ago.
The brothel keeper was arrested but after a long trial was unjustly acquitted despite the overwhelming evidence. It has been discouraging for the team but an appeal has been made. It is hoped that the brothel keeper may still be convicted but bringing justice requires perseverance.
Karishma now lives at a Freedom Firm aftercare home. The scars of her past are deep and recovery from her awful experience takes time. With six other rescued girls she is experiencing emotional healing through counselling and prayer. She is learning to look after herself and receiving a basic education and skills training to set up her own small craft business. Finally she is experiencing the goodness of life.
She is free at last.
Will you help us to bring freedom? Only €22 per month can pay for an undercover investigator to raid a brothel & set a girl free.
Ivory Coast Crisis – 8 Apr 2011
Well over 130,000 Ivorians have fled their country into neighbouring Liberia amid fighting caused by a disputed presidential election last November. One million people have been displaced, creating massive humanitarian need and placing an increased strain on border communities that are ill-equipped to deal with such an influx.
‘The situation in Ivory Coast is extremely worrying as it has potential to destablise the entire region’ says Tearfund Ireland Chief Executive Reuben Coulter, who worked in Liberia for two years ‘We have excellent local partners who have been able to provide vital assistance to the refugees.’
Agencies involved in medical work are reporting an alarming caseload of people needing treatment for gunshot and machete wounds. Of the refugees registered, 60 per cent are under the age of 18 and 54 per cent are female. Most are living with host communities in overcrowded conditions without adequate access to food, water and sanitation.
Tearfund partner Equip is supporting 40,000 refugees in Liberia’s Nimba County by offering healthcare, which includes screening children for signs of malnutrition and treating diseases such as malaria.
Please help them to respond to this immense human need. Give what you can today.
Only €31 can provide a tarpaulin for shelter for a family and €55 can provide a family of with emergency household items,water containers and blankets.
Myanmar earthquake - church responds – 1 Apr 2011
Tearfund partner’s are helping people hit by strong earthquakes on March 24th in north east Myanmar (Burma). Tearfund Ireland Chief Executive Reuben Coulter visited these partners in January of this year and met with Burmese church leaders.
Three powerful tremors struck close to northern Thailand and the border with Laos, and more than 100 people died. One of the biggest losses of life was at a church in north east Myanmar where the whole building collapsed killing 25 members and injuring 50 others.
Tearfund partner agencies – Myanmar Baptist Convention (MBC) and Mekong Minority Foundation (MMF) – have jointly initiated an emergency response. They have assessed the imediate needs and are now working in five badly affected communities – providing temporary shelter, food and medical help to affected people. Initial assessments show that the greatest damage and loss of life is in and around the Shan town of Ta Lar, where several dozen structures collapsed.
Tearfund is making emergency funds available to support MBC, MMF and other partners. They are planning immediate relief such as temporary shelter, food rations and meeting basic medical needs – as well as continuing longer-term support for the region. This will include working with communities to reduce the risks when facing further earthquakes and other disasters.