In Danny Boyle's extraordinary film Slumdog Millionaire, young orphans are taken from the streets and forced to beg. The captors discover one boy has a beautiful voice and so they blind him to raise both the sympathy factor of potential alms givers, and the dollar amount of their charity. Although this is a fictional account, it is the daily reality for thousands of trafficked children. They are maimed and then forced onto the streets to beg. If they do not meet their daily quotas they do not eat and are sometimes not allowed into the place where they sleep. Just one more perversity of modern slavery.
In India, Ethiopia, even Egypt there are alarming new trends. Children who are maimed make the so called "begging mafia" 5 to ten times what a non-crippled child will. It is so prevalent in India that many humanitarian organizations counsel their members not to give crippled children money but instead offer them food, hoping it might discourage the future maiming of other children. In several recent documented cases in India, the children who were maimed had been approached by someone posing to be from a religious or humanitarian organization. The children were given food and promised a safe place to stay. And then they were taken somewhere and maimed. One boy was taken to a doctor who amputated his leg while another had his left arm amputated. The boy below is also addicted to glue that his handlers got him hooked on. This is a common tactic to keep the children submissive and pitiful looking, many of these kids end up addicted to any number of substances.
As with the many other types of Trafficking, homeless orphans are one of the highest risk groups. They have no one to protect them, no way to feed or clothe themselves. Add to this the cultural stigmatization of the impoverished in some countries, and it is painfully obvious why these innocent kids end up facing this type of inhuman torture.
One of the most profound ways individuals can fight this practice of maiming and the trafficking of orphans in general is to either adopt them or fund organizations that protect them. Please help these innocent victims by doing whatever you can in that respect. From all of us at COH, thank you for your compassion and dedication to justice.
Friday, July 9, 2010
Thursday, July 8, 2010
"Live simply so that others may simply live" is not a twitter-worthy platitude printed on an inspirational poster beneath a majestic animal doing what majestic animals do in front of a breathtaking (and majestic) landscape. It is a mandate, attributed to Gandhi, that is as relevant today as it was when it was uttered.
On the front-lines of the battle against human trafficking, NGO's, human rights organizations and civil governments continue to be hindered by budgetary shortfalls. People are continually exploited, abused, enslaved, and killed because those with the will and the expertise to fight for justice lack the resources to do just that. Economists tell us that it is not a zero sum game, that there are plenty of resources to go around. But hoping and wishing for financial equality and the realization of that desire, are a universe apart.
What is within our reach is living responsibly and sharing with those less fortunate. Ordering a small instead of a large coffee a day can double the income of the estimated 300 million people who live on less than a dollar a day. Drinking tap water instead of bottled water can save hundreds of dollars a year, money that could be used to dig clean water wells in villages where women and children are forced to walk hours a day on poorly lit roads to get water from polluted sources, all the while in danger of being kidnapped and trafficked or even killed. A two pack a day cigarette habit can mean two or three thousand dollars a year into the coffers of organizations like IJM and Not For Sale in their continuing fight against modern slavery. Down-sizing our houses and cars can save tens of thousands of dollars in utilities, fuel, mortgage payments, interest, insurance and upkeep. The liquidation of our surplus possessions can take what is gathering dust in our closets and attics and turn it into freedom for the 30 million people enslaved today.
St. Basil the Great said, "The bread which you hold back belongs to the hungry; the coat, which you guard in your locked storage-chests, belongs to the naked; the footwear moldering in your closet belongs to those without shoes". In a very real sense our excess can fill the vacuum of their lack, may even be the difference between life and death. This voluntary reduction and redistribution of resources is the most straightforward and potentially powerful way ordinary people can do extraordinary things.
We live in an age of politicking and activism where environmental concerns make the front pages as much or more than humanitarian ones. But these two things are interrelated in a very complex way. In the age of globalization we truly have become a global community where even the smallest actions have long reaching ripple reactions. When we are wasteful with resources there are more than just environmental repercussions. The resources we use cost money at every level of extraction, refinement, and consumption. Again, that money could be saved and sent to anti-slavery organizations. Reduction, recycling, and reusing are not just the tenets of a conservationist philosophy, they can be turned into very real weapons in the hands of those who war against evil men who enslave and exploit for profit.
But however we choose to reduce consumption, any amount is better than none. Just a few dollars a week can have a profound affect. And I think once you see what those few dollars can do you will become so emboldened, so enlivened, that "living simply" for such a beautiful cause will become your passion.