“Desire changes nothing; decision changes something; while determination changes everything.”
– Harold D’Souza
Before the program ended, Harold D’Souza gives a positive takeaway for his otherwise harrowing & traumatic story. A labor trafficking survivor, anti-trafficking spokesperson, and advocate for the survivors and sufferers of all human trafficking, Mr. D’Souza founds Eyes Open International and commits his voice to courage, hope and freedom for all the victims of this international injustice.
The ongoing existence of modern slavery – a clear and present evil – has eluded every simple solution and half-measure thus far. Everything tried before, if they were in earnest, failed, as wealth continued to grow. However, from where he sits, Mr. D’Souza offers his unrelenting determination to reach better possible futures – ones banishing the skeletons of human trafficking from the shadowy parts of our world, as they have in the past.
As a guest on Stop Now’s live cast show, D’Souza’s vitality and verve seem to resonate with the crew, and with co hosts Nate and Melissa. His persona brings with it, the inspiration and intention to see those observable traits – like strength, charisma and determination – reflected in oneself.
Appointed by President Barack Obama to the US Advisory Council on Human Trafficking in 2015, D’Souza maintained his role during Donald Trump’s Administration. During his appointment and beyond, he’s taken active steps directed toward his one principal goal: emancipation of the victims, and solace for the survivors.
Being once a victim himself, D’Souza experienced the side of America that’s obscured by illumination. Abused, enslaved and almost murdered, he’d envisioned a land of opportunity but, for him, it turned out to be the polar reverse. He shares his unlikely immigrant story with many, unfortunate H-1B and former H-1B visa holders.
For D’Souza, a sales management professional in India, he had no idea that a response to those job offers extended to him, would lead to crossing borders, hemispheres, to face the new boundaries of the soul, for which man wasn’t meant but was uncannily built. Similarly for their families, thousands of young Indian men sought futures undreamt anywhere but in America, the land of the free.
Though for the majority of Indians, when granted an American visa, it marks the beginning of an end to their desperate quest for opportunity. They find the reward they’ve deserved for years: full compensation for their talents, their dedication, and their hard work. Their abilities poignantly abound during the troubled time they spend in India.
However, for Harold D’Souza as well as many more Indian migrants, the vision of America as Heaven, or Svarga – a comparison to which many Indians attest – meets with accounts, of horror stories, resembling more like Hell, or Narak. These stories – undeniably difficult to hear – about inarguable injustices experienced at the hands of labor traffickers, belong predominantly to those originating in India.
A trend on the rise, labor trafficking primarily targets Indians, who account for 70% of the victims – 80% of those being young & male. As such, the citizens of this South Asian country continue to be drained of these great minds, losing great intellectuals akin to Gandhi, Ramanujan and countless others. Those rarely studied in the US due simply to an exact, geographical opposition.
A voice for these victims, Mr. D’Souza regards himself as a common man. A man with a dream, he also affixes to himself, the labels of failure and sinner. As he poignantly reveals, his horrendous story turned into the hopeful search – for his own freedom and freedom for others – which would eventually lead him to the chair on which he rests, in front of a quaint, American, dining room cabinet.
However, beginning that day in 2003, when he arrived in the States, he was immediately caught in a mire of deception, constructed by his traffickers. 11 months without salary, without a bank account, healthcare, or social security, he relentlessly battled utter ruin: threats of arrest, deportation and death. In every case, the prospect of failing his family loomed above him always.
Today, he’s turned plight into personal strength, emerging as the outspoken leader sure to be found on the right side of history. Even as death threats hover above, his public outreach and announcements take precedence over the vulgar promises of former captors. His reality is one afflicting thousands more held under the coercion and influence of their traffickers. Yet D’Souza asked himself; ‘If I don’t stand up for all of them, who do I expect will stand up for me?’ He said this to me in a private interview, and I almost fell off the Earth; it was such a groundbreaking statement.
So, he becomes the voice of the silent. The 10 years of his own suffering – the constant pressure and threat of arrest, murder, and deportation – none could continue standing in his way, in the way of his purpose.
Watch the interview and listen, as he travels the road to becoming a free man, as he stands today.
Eyes Open International, (www.eyesopeninternational.org) provides a telephone number where victims of human trafficking may reach out for help : +1 888 373 7888
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