Christina Kumar, a solicitor based in Wembley, saw first-hand the brutal reality of child trafficking and exploitation when she worked for international anti-slavery organisation, IJM, in the Philippines.
Now back in the UK, ahead of Anti-Slavery Day on Sunday 18th October, she has just completed the virtual London marathon and raised almost £6,000 to help free people in modern slavery.
An estimated 40 million people are in slavery today – and the COVID-19 crisis is making even more people vulnerable to slavery and exploitation. That’s why London lawyer Christina Kumar, was determined not to give up on her bid to run the London Marathon to raise funds to free people from slavery. Due to lockdown, the London marathon was virtual this year, meaning that Christina had to complete the challenge alone. She started her route in Regent’s Park as this is one of her favourite parks in London and decided she would end the marathon on her own doorstep in North West London. Despite the rainy weather on the day of the marathon, Christina was able to complete her race in just over 5 hours!
In comparison to a normal year, running most of the route alone, meant there were no spectators to cheer her on. Thankfully, her brother managed to join her for the final 8km, which was hugely motivating and brought back memories of the two of them crossing the finish line together at the London Marathon in 2015. Christina also kept reminding herself that there were another 45,000 people participating in the London Marathon from 109 countries across the world! So far, Christina has been able to raise almost £6,000!
Christina said: “My heart sank on Sunday morning when I woke up on Sunday morning and it was pouring with rain. The wet and blustery conditions made it a really difficult run but I dug deep and persevered until the very end, buoyed by good music, lots of energy gels and by a cause that is very close to my heart.”
“It felt really surreal to cross a virtual finish line, particularly as compared with the roar that would usually greet runners as they enter the iconic finishing stretch of the London Marathon on The Mall. I was really pleased with my finish time of just over 5 hours given the conditions. My brother and I enjoyed a celebratory smoothie and soaked in a moment I will never forget.”
In January 2018, Christina made the decision to move temporarily to the Philippines to work for the largest international anti-slavery organisation, International Justice Mission (IJM.) She experienced first-hand the transformational work that IJM is doing to secure justice for survivors of slavery, sexual exploitation, and other forms of violent oppression across the globe. After returning to the UK 15 months later, Christina remained determined to do whatever she could to continue helping with this cause.
In the Philippines, Christina worked with the IJM team to tackle the issue of online sexual exploitation of children (OSEC), where customers from all around the world – including the UK – pay to watch the livestreamed abuse of children over the internet. During her time supporting IJM in the Philippines, a total of 89 children (the youngest being just 6 months old) were rescued from OSEC and 21 convictions were secured against the perpetrators of these crimes. Law enforcement agencies believes that the prevalence of OSEC is likely to have increased dramatically due to the pandemic, as both children and perpetrators spend more time at home in lockdowns.
Another impact of the pandemic is that as more people struggle financially, it is likely that traffickers will take advantage of this with false job offers and loans, seeing more people trapped in slavery. IJM works with global law enforcement to stop this abuse, and – with support from local fundraisers like Christina – they have been able to help find and free over 3,000 people from exploitation and slavery since March.
David Westlake, CEO of International Justice Mission UK, said: “The COVID-19 crisis has made more people vulnerable to modern slavery – including new forms of trafficking, like online sexual exploitation of children. We are so encouraged by people like Christina who are so committed to seeing justice and freedom for the millions of people trapped in slavery and exploitation around the world. It’s people like Christina that fuel our hope that it really is possible to end slavery in our lifetime.”
You can read more about IJM’s work at www.ijmuk.org
You can view Christina’s fundraising page here.