Resilience has a name. It is Johnny.

A survivor of child trafficking, Johnny D Silva was kidnapped at the age of 10 years and forced to do backbreaking work under inhuman conditions for 8 and a half years. He was lured into leaving his home after being falsely informed that his father required him immediately for some urgent help with his vegetable cart. A few frantic steps and he blacked out.

The world that he woke up to knew no mercy. Tortured and beaten blue, he underwent grueling and never-ending days. A watchman, being a good Samaritan, gave him some money and asked him to go back to where he came from.

And he ran for his life. To never look back again.

His hometown in Tamil Nadu was the first place that flashed to his mind. His eager eyes searched for his family but found neither his father, mother or his grandfather. Fortunately, he could get in contact with his uncle who refused to believe him at first. Eight and a half years can do a lot to one’s appearance, especially in the case of a growing child. After Johnny tried to prove his identity through some of his past shared memories, his uncle was overjoyed at his discovery. He promptly called up Johnny’s grandfather who was at the same place and brought him home. Soon, his father and his mother came over. The reunion was bittersweet and he was whisked off to Bangalore to meet the rest of his family.

Johnny with the Father

The story doesn’t end there.

The one and a half years that followed saw Johnny go through bouts of isolation and depression. Teased by his friends for having studied only till fifth grade, he struggled to cope. He started attending his church and also started to do small jobs such as being an electrician and also a carpenter to support his family. He was unhappy as such petty work brought in pay that was abysmal. One day, a Brother at his church asked him to go visit Father Deepak Joseph K, Director of St Joseph’s Community College, in order to get back on his two feet again. His grandfather was the one who took the pains to travel all the way from Coimbatore to take him to the Father.

Johnny with the Father

Having joined St Joseph Community College under the able guidance of Father Deepak, he took up hotel management. The lack of food during his dark days had left an impact in his psyche and had pushed him unconsciously into the field of food and cooking. Now, a proud Diploma holder in Hotel Management certified from International Institute of Hotel Management, his goal in life is to work on a cruise.

When asked to say a few words on life and to those struggling to find a way, he replies without hesitation that it is never to back down. And if we do fall, one should always get back up. And finally, he says that opportunities are always out there and it is our responsibility to grab them by their collar.

Carpe Diem!

United Way of Bengaluru has been supporting SJCC towards empowering the youth from discriminated and marginalized communities. Johnny’s story is just the tip of the iceberg.