It happened in the middle of the night, two men slipping away quietly from a ranch. They walked 14 miles through forests and fields to escape. And what makes this rescue especially inspiring is this: a younger slavery survivor risked his life to help an elderly stranger who could never have walked free on his own.
When they arrived at the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT), a frontline partner of Free the Slaves, the two men were exhausted. Ronival*, 69, had a broken shoulder and was blind in one eye. He had had lost 55 pounds during 10 years of slavery.
He wept while describing his living conditions. For six years he slept outside the rancher’s house. He eventually moved to a wood hut, but there was no electricity, drinking water or sanitation. He bathed in a polluted stream that was also used by cattle.
The elderly man had been rescued by Joel*, 30, who was already free. CPT was helping him file legal claims against different slaveholders. Joel had been tricked several times by farmers who promised good jobs but never delivered.
“This is not human job, this is slave job,” Joel recalls saying to himself. “But I always attempted once more. Who knows: this time, it might be better?”
Joel’s mother told him about Ronival’s situation, so he decided to act. He thought of calling authorities, but feared it would be too dangerous.
“I didn’t want to expose myself; somebody might identify me, it might be dangerous for my life,” Joel said. “So I opted to do the rescue immediately on my own.”
Now free, Ronival’s vision is recovering thanks to cataract surgery. CPT helped him win compensation from the slaveholder in court. CPT helped Joel restart his life free from threats from the men who had enslaved him.
You can learn more about the inspiring work of CPT in our 11-minute online documentary: Partners in Action.
* Pseudonyms have been used to help safeguard the men’s identities.