“From being trafficked to becoming the voice of the trafficked”, Harold D’Souza, who is the co-founder of Eyes Open International, recently opened about his long journey. In an interview with the Humans of Bombay, Harold talked about how he became a victim of human trafficking and was duped by his employer and forced to work long hours in a restaurant with his wife.
Harold arrived in the United States back in 2003 to build a better life for himself and his family. While in India he was the regional manager of a tech company in Baroda, when he shifted to US 16 years back, he was forced to work for long hours and got cheated out of his savings and even survived a murder attempt. He claimed to be at ‘good place’ in 2003, however, it was also the same year he met his ‘trafficker’ for the first time.
He said, “His opening line was, 'How would you like to become a millionaire?'–I was hooked. He painted a beautiful picture of living the 'American Dream' with a $75,000 job as a business development executive at his friend's factory”.
However, “it was hell”, he said. In a six-part interview posted on Facebook, Harold said that once he and his family were in the US, his employer put them up in a one-room apartment and convinced them to start working at a restaurant. The Cincinnati resident said that his employer even asked him to hand over any cash and documents he had for ‘safekeeping’. Harold said that he trusted him and treated him as an older brother and naively handed everything to him.
A few months later his employer forced him to sign blank documents. The Facebook post read, “The very next day, I got a bank notification–the cash we’d saved for our kids' school and the loan amount was missing! My employer had emptied the account. And for the 18 months we’d worked, my wife and I weren't paid a penny”.
Harold even said that his employer also used psychological tactics like calling them ‘illegals’, abusing him verbally and sexually assaulting his wife and even abusing his two sons in front of them. Harold added that he was afraid of the lengths his employer would go if he ever said no.
However, it was after two years, his wife, Dancy, confronted the trafficker and demanded that he pay him back. But the employer said that they were illegal and can’t even work on the visa. Later the family decided to contact the Department of Labour and made frantic calls to reach an agent. The investigation finally began and the employer got a notice.
Soon after, Harold also said that the trafficker even hired a gunman to kill him. He said, “He hired a hitman to kill me. In the movies, gunshots are glorified. But as I lay on that hospital bed, writhing in pain, all I could think of was how I wanted to live”.
After going through the toughest of time, it was back in 2016, he got a call from the White House. He said, “President Obama was starting an Advisory Council on Human Trafficking and wanted survivors on board. I was the only Indian American appointed to the council”. He added, “I thought it was my proudest moment until Michelle Obama said to me, 'I need to send my kids to your house. Your kids are so well brought up.' I couldn't hold back the tears”.
From a man in Baroda to getting to meet the then US President Barack Obama, the long journey of Harold D’Souza and his family has touched thousands of hearts on social media. His determination and courage have left netizens impressed. While some are hailing him as a hero, others are also calling him a man with ‘a heart of a lion’. One internet user also wrote, “This story brought tears to my eyes. It very clearly shows us that no matter the odds, we can rise from the deepest trenches”.