Sumi's journey from horror to new hope

In February, advocates won a huge victory when the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) passed Congress with broad bipartisan support. The TVPRA allowed the U.S. government to partner with the government of Bangladesh to pass its own anti-trafficking law in 2012.

Now, the fight begins to ensure that this law is funded and that the United States remains a leader in the global cause to end modern-day slavery, continuing to partner with countries like Bangladesh.

Learn more about the TVPRA -- and read the story below, which shows what we can accomplish together with the help of this legislation. (Story by Sujet Chisim, World Vision Bangladesh)

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Every year, more than 25,000 women and children are trafficked out of Bangladesh. Many of them are lost forever. Sumi* is one of the few children lucky enough to return home before she fell into what is known as modern day slavery.

“I do not want to recall those terrible 28 days of my life. It was horrible,” says Sumi, 9, a fourth-grade student in the primary school next to her village, who has two sisters and one brother.

“They are the most inhuman and brutal people that I have ever met in my life.”

Last July, a relative came to Sumi’s house. He stayed there for two days and was warmly welcomed by the family. The very next day, he asked Sumi’s mother if he could take Sumi to a wedding feast. But Sumi’s mother, Lutfunnahar, did not allow her to go with him.

But the relative convinced Sumi to go anyway, and they left the house unnoticed.

“Hearing the news that she was missing, I became mad, could not think of what to do, where to find her,” says Lutfunnahar. “Our only prayer to [God] was ‘just give her back.’”

Two days after her abduction, the relative informed her parents by mobile phone that he had kidnapped Sumi. He demanded 200,000 taka (over US $2,500) to bring her back.

The family could not afford her ransom. Sumi’s father, a day laborer, was at a loss.

By this time, Sumi had heard that her captor was planning to take her out of Bangladesh into India, a bordering country where more than 300,000 Bangladeshi children are directly involved in the sex trade and many more in various forms of forced labor.

“Hearing their discussion about trafficking me in India, I was frightened and asked them to send me back home, but they beat me brutally,” Sumi says. “They threatened to kill me with a Botti [knife] if I said that again.”

There was nobody to help her.

Meanwhile, Sumi’s parents informed World Vision staff and community leaders about the incident. After hearing what had happened, World Vision helped them file a complaint and build a court case.

After gathering testimony and evidence, police issued a warrant against Sumi’s abductor. The police started searching for the kidnapper; and within a short time, they identified the spot where Sumi was being held.

A police team raided the area and found the missing girl, who was very sick.

“They did not serve me food regularly,” Sumi said with a moan. “They did not even provide me water to drink. They forced me to grind red chilies and ginger. They even [forced] me to do heavier work than I could carry.”

Now, she gives thanks to God. “[It was] He who gave me back to my parents.”

Little Sumi did not forget to show her gratitude to World Vision and its sponsorship management committee for giving her a new life. For Sumi and her family, it is a cause for joy that the criminals were arrested and held accountable.

Sumi is now attending school regularly and is very happy to have returned to normal life. She is grateful that her friends and family have accepted her as before.

Sumi studies for school, a task she's grateful to have after the terrifying ordeal she faced. (Photo: Lipy Mary Rodrigues/World Vision)

Moreover, the community is much more aware of issues like child trafficking and child rights now.

“I feel blissful when I see Sumi smiling, gossiping, playing with her friends, and going to school happily,” her mother says. “I have heard people saying that girls are a burden, but to me, they are a precious jewel to keep in warmth.”

Still, the poor mother laments in silence, asking a question that would undoubtedly haunt the mind of any parent in her situation: “Is Sumi truly safe?”

*The child's name has been changed to protect her identity.

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Sumi's mother still worries about whether her daughter is safe. Tragically, because of human trafficking, hundreds of millions of children worldwide are not. This is why the Trafficking Victims Protection Act is such a critical law. The programs it supports aren't a significant part of the federal budget -- just 0.003 percent of it, to be exact.

But they help fight modern-day slavery through critical interventions like support services for trafficking survivors; resources for law enforcement and prosecution; and funding for prevention programs, both domestically and internationally. Through the tools provided in the law, many more people like Sumi can see their story go from hopeless to hopeful.

Contact your members of Congress today. Ask them to support strong funding to fight modern-day slavery through the TVPRA.

You can also make a one-time donation to provide support for a formerly exploited child, like Sumi. Your gift will help bring safety and prevent further exploitation through measures like vocational training, education, counseling, and more.

Want to build a personal relationship with a vulnerable child? Sponsor a boy or girl in Bangladesh today. Your love and commitment will help a child stay in school and avoid tragic outcomes, like trafficking and exploitation.

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