Risky Business

I have been extremely blessed to volunteer for Justice Ventures International for the last year. I’m excited to see where this partnership leads and how I can continue to contribute to the great work JVI is doing around the world.  As my friend Charles Lee says, “Compassion must be more than just a re-tweet.”  I want to work towards compassion & justice around the world in tangible, even sacrificial, ways — to venture, to risk, in becoming a better expression of God’s love.

Justice Ventures

JVI identifies and partners with people & organizations on the ground around the world who are working to bring justice to the poor & oppressed.  Their work is somewhat analogous to the work of venture capitalists: instead of showing up with all the answers or doing all the work, JVI strengthens justice ventures, organizations who are “taking up the fight for justice on behalf of vulnerable members of our global society.”

More Than A Buzzword

JVI, without even using the phrase, embodies the heart behind missional.  [An aside: I know in some circles, the word missional has almost been completely devalued (due to overuse, misuse, marketing tactics, etc.), but I think it’s worth holding onto.]  Instead of “bringing” Jesus or God’s justice around the world, JVI recognizes that God is already at work all across His world and seeks to join in that work.

A Glimpse Into JVI’s Work

Below, you can read a bit about JVI’s work around the world (from a recent Facebook group update — consider joining!):

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JVI is currently partnering with Habitat for Humanity to build houses in Tiruvallur, Tamil Nadu, for former bonded labour families who were rescued and released last year. The report below appeared in The Hindu (a major English daily in India), Sep 27, 2009. Through our work, we hope to support the release and rehabilitation of many more bonded labourers.

State has over one lakh bonded labourers: study

Staff Reporter

CHENNAI: A study report on bonded and migrant labour in Tamil Nadu, released by the National Campaign Committee for Unorganized Sector Workers here on Saturday, put the number of bonded labourers in the State at over one lakh.

“There are several thousands of bonded labourers in the rice mills, stone quarries, brick kilns and textile mills of Tamil Nadu awaiting justice,” the committee’s regional coordinator R. Geetha said.

The report documents various case studies of bonded labourers from different districts, including Tiruvallur, Villupuram, Theni, Nagapattinam and Kancheepuram. It also draws attention to the caste-based bonded labour system involving ‘Thurumbars,’ traditionally employed for washing clothes and other household chores.

Some erstwhile bonded labourers, who managed to escape from the clutches of their employers following the intervention from social activists, shared their experience at the function.
Unending ordeal

Ellamma from Sengundram in Tiruvallur district said most of her relatives were bonded to the rice mill since childhood. “We worked almost through the day with little time to sleep. Most women had to live in perennial fear of being sexually harassed.” Though it was more than two years since her family was rescued from the mill, they were yet to get their release certificates by the district administration and two acres promised to them had not been given.

Ambika, a Thurumbar from Tiruvannamalai district, was on the verge of tears as she recounted the atrocities she suffered under her employers. “We had to tolerate insults and our children were denied entry in schools. We got only Rs.30 for a month’s work.” Bonded labourers from stone quarries of Karur were among the others who shared their stories.

Ms. Geetha also pointed out that construction labourers migrating from the southern districts of the State to Bangalore were given a raw deal. “Many of them work under unsafe conditions with poor pay.” The report also documents the poor working conditions of migrant construction workers in Chennai, who have no entitlements.

Former Additional Secretary of Labour, T.S. Shankaran, released the report. Former bureaucrat M.G. Devasahayam and Raman Mahadevan of the Institute of Development Alternatives spoke.