I hope that you and your family are healthy and safe during these difficult times. I am reaching out to you today to share about how the Covid-19 global pandemic is affecting communities where slavery makes people especially vulnerable to disasters and financial shocks, and how Free the Slaves teams are adapting.
Now, more than ever, we must confront the forces of discrimination and disenfranchisement that are worsening under the societal stress caused by the worldwide medical and economic emergency. Crises cause spikes in debt bondage, forced labor and human trafficking. The depth and scope of the current crisis will cause devastating and long-lasting effects on those who are vulnerable to enslavement.
Free the Slaves team members have been adapting our rights-education and community mobilization field programs to be of service even though in-person meetings aren’t possible in many places.
HAITI: Our teams are distributing 2,000 hygiene kits in rural areas, and continue one-on-one case work with the 220 people in our poverty alleviation program. The team is working with U.N. officials to ensure that anti-trafficking activities are integrated into international assistance.
GHANA: Free the Slaves staffers are working to ensure that child rescue shelters have the resources they need to protect and serve the slavery survivors who live there. Some children will have to remain in the shelter longer than usual, because returning them to their homes isn’t safe. Field teams are teaching social distancing and proper handwashing techniques where small group meetings are still possible.
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: Our team is advocating for their rights of Haitian immigrants and those of Haitian descent. Government aid is not reaching them. The team is using WhatsApp to communicate health and safety information via cell phone.
INDIA: The notorious brick kilns that enslave workers have been closed by government order. But forced labor continues on farms. Training of government officials on India’s laws to outlaw slavery has gone virtual. Just before India’s nationwide lockdown, 21 people were liberated in a police raid.
Our teams continue to plan for the global pandemic’s consequences, including when debt will force many families into slavery. Traffickers with false promises of lucrative work abroad will target impoverished villages.
For 20 years, the Free the Slaves commitment to liberate victims and protect the vulnerable has never wavered. I hope that you can continue to support our mission in this historic moment. Your financial contribution in these critical times will help us to continue the work of ending slavery.