NFS Vietnam – The Challenge Ahead

NFS Vietnam – The Challenge Ahead

NFS Vietnam – The Challenge Ahead

Written by Michael Brosowski

People sometimes ask me what a typical day is like at Blue Dragon. I have to answer very honestly that there’s no such thing as a typical day. And this week has been illustrative of that.

Early in the week we represented survivors of trafficking in court for a case that’s over 23 years old. Two women trafficked more than 20 years ago finally saw their trafficker jailed. This is the first “cold case” we’ve been involved in.

We brought back a woman from China, handed across the border by Chinese police, who was quite ill and needed immediate medical care. It wasn’t coronavirus and she’s fine now, but there were certainly some tense moments.

The challenges ahead are complex, but I’m confident that Blue Dragon and Not For Sale Vietnam can rise to meet them. After all, this is what we are here for.

Director of Not For Sale Vietnam

Mid-week, while focusing on cases of sexual abuse of street children, an urgent call came through from a boarding school way up in the mountains that had noticed two of their girls missing. Blue Dragon coordinated between the school and the police, eventually locating the girls in a mini-van headed to the border with China.

The traffickers knew they’d been detected so slipped off the bus before the police could get to them. The girls are now safely with us and police are investigating.

And then a call came to help a 21 year old university student from Ho Chi Minh City. She’d lost her part-time job because of the coronavirus some months back, so thought she’d finally got lucky when she was offered a waitressing position in a café. The café turned out to be a brothel, and for 3 days she had to fight to protect herself before finally being able to call for help. She, too, is safe now.

As these urgent calls for help came through, the street outreach team continued meeting record numbers of homeless children in Hanoi; our staff out in the provinces continued investigating cases of children failing to return to school to see where they are and what they need; and a street kid disclosed that there’s an organized ring pimping out boys at a lake.

So, a week of constant surprise and struggle.

There has been plenty of good news through the week too, of course.

Every one of the 100 Blue Dragon scholars at university and college is back in class. These are all young adults who grew up in Blue Dragon programs and are now pursuing a tertiary education.

We had some wonderful reunions of women who were rescued from trafficking but have been in quarantine for 2 weeks, including a young woman whose son has waited months for the day his mother would walk back through the front door.

And we even had the good news that an organic corn project we’ve been working on in the mountains is yielding excellent results – more on that in a future post!

At Not For Sale Vietnam and Blue Dragon, we’re familiar with turbulence. Our whole organization is set up to respond to crisis. And it looks like the coming weeks and months will continue to demand a lot from us.

While the coronavirus pandemic is largely over in Vietnam, we are seeing its impact in the desperate situations that so many young people are in.

Until the whole world recovers, no one country can return to normal. This really is a case of us all being in the same storm, even if we are riding it out in different vessels.

The challenges ahead are complex, but I’m confident that Blue Dragon and Not For Sale Vietnam can rise to meet them. After all, this is what we are here for. And we are not alone: we have friends around the globe who are cheering us on and donating to make sure the kids have what they need.

Our work now is like riding in two gears simultaneously. We are still dealing with emergency needs arising from the pandemic, while also starting the process of rebuilding lives and communities as they begin their recovery.

There are tough times ahead for the kids. We stand ready to respond.

Related Articles

Related

Holiday Gift Guide 2017

Holiday Gift Guide 2017 Celebrate Freedom! We have something for everyone on your list — give the gift of freedom. Not For Sale is a rebellious group of brands that have come together across multiple product categories and industries to change the world. Each time you...

read more

NFS Vietnam – Mothers Day

Many countries around the world celebrated Mother’s Day on Sunday. It’s no international holiday like Christmas or New Year, but for countless millions it’s just as significant. Some women have no interest in having children. Others easily have many. And some struggle...

read more

NFS Vietnam – Mothers Day

NFS Vietnam – Mothers Day

NFS Vietnam – Mothers Day

Written by Michael Brosowski

Many countries around the world celebrated Mother’s Day on Sunday.

It’s no international holiday like Christmas or New Year, but for countless millions it’s just as significant.

Some women have no interest in having children. Others easily have many. And some struggle for years to fall pregnant and give birth.

When Blue Dragon rescues girls and women who have been trafficked into the sex trade, one of the foremost issues on their mind is the question: Can I have children?

I remember what you did for me. Thank you.

Trafficking Survivor to our Vietnam team

They may have been raped repeatedly. They may have been drugged, beaten, and told that they are now barren. It may be true, or it may be a part of the torture that trafficked women routinely experience.

So the moment they are back in Vietnam, and their lives are now clearly in safe hands, their greatest fear is that they may have lost the ability to have children of their own.

This weekend, with Mother’s Day looming, one young woman who Blue Dragon rescued in the past contacted our rescue team. Not with a request for help… but instead, with a photo.

 

Her message was very simple.

I remember what you did for me. Thank you.

For this young woman, who I will call Diep, bringing her home and giving her the freedom to have her own child, her own family, is the greatest gift she could imagine.

This weekend, Diep celebrated Mother’s Day. An occasion that for so many means breakfast in bed and drawings to stick on the fridge is, for survivors of human trafficking, a momentous occasion. A celebration they feared they would never know.

Diep is 26 years old. She was in slavery in China for 2 months – a relatively short time, compared to some. On Friday, we brought home a woman who was trafficked and sold 30 years ago, aged 12. But whether it’s 2 months in hell or 30 years, it’s still hell.

Not For Sale Vietnam never asks for thanks. We’ve rescued women who have gone straight home from the border and never contacted us again. We ask nothing: it’s a woman’s choice as to what they want to do once they have their freedom.

But I have to be honest. Diep’s message, and the photo of her beautiful baby boy, reminds me of what it’s all about.

To Diep, and to all the mothers around the world who have struggled and fought and raised their children in the face of all kinds of adversity:

Happy Mother’s Day. May you be forever remembered for your sacrifice and your love.

 

Related Articles

Related

Holiday Gift Guide 2017

Holiday Gift Guide 2017 Celebrate Freedom! We have something for everyone on your list — give the gift of freedom. Not For Sale is a rebellious group of brands that have come together across multiple product categories and industries to change the world. Each time you...

read more

NFS Vietnam – Mothers Day

Many countries around the world celebrated Mother’s Day on Sunday. It’s no international holiday like Christmas or New Year, but for countless millions it’s just as significant. Some women have no interest in having children. Others easily have many. And some struggle...

read more

NFS Vietnam Update – The Secret To Healing

NFS Vietnam Update – The Secret To Healing

NFS Vietnam Update – The Secret To Healing

Written by Michael Brosowski

I heard a story once about survivors of the 9/11 terrorist attack in New York.

The story went that there were essentially two categories of survivors. There were those who saw, who watched from their windows or their TV screens or were speaking to the dying over the phone, but were unable to do anything other than look and listen.

And then there were those who were able to run in and help; who could offer support, take someone by the hand and lead them – or drag them – to safety.

Whether it’s knitting for new mothers, or donating to charity, or even just sharing something on social media to lift someone else up, you will grow in strength when you make others stronger. You will have more joy when you give joy to others.

Michael Brosowski Not For Sale Vietnam Director

Guess who was more resilient in the aftermath of the crisis? Who do you think was more able to cope psychologically as the dust settled?

Without question, those who came through stronger were those who could help.

There’s something about being able to help that gives us strength. You see, helping others might begin with a selfless motivation, but it happens to give back many times over. The giver really does receive, even though that was (hopefully!) never the intention.

Helping others reminds us that we’re important. That we’re not powerless or useless. That we have agency.

And that lesson which so many learned on a terrifying day in 2001 in New York City – and in wars and earthquakes and bushfires and road accidents – is just as true today, in the days of coronavirus.

Here in Vietnam, the public message has been that staying home means helping the country. So, people have helped; they stayed home until community transmissions reached zero. And there is a tangible sense of national pride that everyone has done so.

Along the way, many have found means to help. I’ve had emails and phone calls from people wanting to give food, or money, or face masks to help the kids. Beautiful sentiments, often from people who have little themselves.

Community members have set up “rice ATMs” where hungry people can go and take a days’ supply of rice, no questions asked.

The Not For Sale Vietnam kids have helped out in their own ways. Some of our girls, high school students in central Vietnam, signed up as volunteers to cook for hundreds of people in quarantine camps. Others used their savings to buy food for others. One of our old boys who is now the head chef for a large company led a campaign to deliver hot meals to homeless people on the streets at night.

All of these acts were undertaken with no intention of personal gain, but each of these volunteers and donors is stronger because of their giving.

Wherever you are in the world, I encourage you to use your resources to help others. Whether it’s knitting for new mothers, or donating to charity, or even just sharing something on social media to lift someone else up, you will grow in strength when you make others stronger. You will have more joy when you give joy to others.

We’re all hurting right now. The secret to healing is not to try to heal ourselves.

The secret is to heal others.

Related Articles

Related

Holiday Gift Guide 2017

Holiday Gift Guide 2017 Celebrate Freedom! We have something for everyone on your list — give the gift of freedom. Not For Sale is a rebellious group of brands that have come together across multiple product categories and industries to change the world. Each time you...

read more

NFS Vietnam – Mothers Day

Many countries around the world celebrated Mother’s Day on Sunday. It’s no international holiday like Christmas or New Year, but for countless millions it’s just as significant. Some women have no interest in having children. Others easily have many. And some struggle...

read more

NFS Vietnam Update – The Field

NFS Vietnam Update – The Field

NFS Vietnam Update – The Field

Written by Michael Brosowski

There’s a story in the Vietnamese newspapers at the moment about 6 boys robbing a man in a guava field near a bus station in Hanoi.

When this story first came to our attention at Not For Sale Vietnam, we immediately suspected there was something more to it.

You see, three years ago Vi Do from Blue Dragon gave a TEDx talk. Vi leads our work with street kids, specializing in finding children in abusive situations and getting them to safety.

In his talk, Vi shared a story about his experience of rescuing underage boys from a sex trafficking ring in Hanoi that operated out of… a guava field near a bus station in Hanoi.

No matter what happens, we will not give up and we cannot slow down in our efforts to keep children safe.
Michael Browsoski – Director of Not For Sale Vietnam
Of the 6 people who have been arrested for robbery, four are aged 15 or 16. The victim of their robbery was a man procuring sex in the field. It doesn’t take much to guess what may be going on.

Vietnam’s economic and social development over the years since Blue Dragon started have been impressive. There are plenty of gaps and always much more to do, but the progress has been remarkable.

And now, suddenly, the coronavirus pandemic puts all this progress at risk. We’ve seen a sharp rise in young people who are desperate. Out of jobs, their parents unemployed, and their schools unable to open, children and teens may have to choose between going hungry or heading to the streets. They may have to choose between staying at home with a family that cannot provide for them, or rolling the dice and traveling to a city far away in the hope that there’s work and food.

This inevitably means an uptick in human trafficking, homelessness, and child exploitation. The story from the guava field rings a warning bell that we urgently need to investigate.

The COVID-19 virus itself is so far well under control in Vietnam. But the damage to the livelihoods of people who were already vulnerable and poor is massive.

Without intervention, the coming months and years will see a sharp rise in exploitation of those who are hurting most. We are already seeing the evidence.

No matter what happens, we will not give up and we cannot slow down in our efforts to keep children safe.

Related Articles

Related

Holiday Gift Guide 2017

Holiday Gift Guide 2017 Celebrate Freedom! We have something for everyone on your list — give the gift of freedom. Not For Sale is a rebellious group of brands that have come together across multiple product categories and industries to change the world. Each time you...

read more

NFS Vietnam – Mothers Day

Many countries around the world celebrated Mother’s Day on Sunday. It’s no international holiday like Christmas or New Year, but for countless millions it’s just as significant. Some women have no interest in having children. Others easily have many. And some struggle...

read more

NFS Vietnam Update – Yesterdays Normal

NFS Vietnam Update – Yesterdays Normal

Written by Michael Brosowski

We’ve all been in isolation for – how long now?

At this point we’re all thinking about the end of lockdown and social distancing. We just want it to be over and for life to get back to normal.  But… do we really? Is yesterday’s normal something that we aspire to?

Or do we dare to ask: Could we do better?

There will be many discussions about how we should shape the future as we recover from COVID-19. Today I want to share my thoughts on the lessons we can take from this global crisis, because what we learn is critical in deciding what we will do next.

“We will get through this difficult time. And we have a chance to consider who we want to be, what sort of world we want to live in. We don’t have to revert to yesterday’s normal.”

NFS Vietnam Director – Michael Brosowski

Lesson 1: The most important people are often the least recognized.

Who has been out on the frontline of this crisis? Nurses, teachers, journalists, doctors, cleaners, social workers, couriers, ambulance drivers, shopkeepers… Some of these people are well paid and many are not. They’re all people who serve others in one way or another. In some countries, these jobs are likely filled by immigrants. They’re also more likely to be women.

As we work our way out of this crisis, these people cannot be forgotten. The structural inequality that rewards some and leaves others in poverty, despite how vital they are to a functioning society, has to be addressed.

 

Lesson 2: Everyone has something to offer.

When we’re all equally in trouble, the normal power imbalances among us become blurred. As I wrote some weeks ago, a boy who has been living under a bridge suddenly assumed the role of an important leader among the kids at Blue Dragon. And this weekend, one of the Blue Dragon ‘old boys’ who is now a (temporarily unemployed) hairdresser, offered to go to the shelters and give free haircuts for everyone. His wife is 8 months pregnant, but he doesn’t want any payment – this is a gift that he wants to contribute.

On a global level, Vietnam made headlines this week for donating more than half a million facemasks to Europe. Normally the recipient of aid, Vietnam found that it has been able to give to others who usually aren’t in need, but now are.

We too easily categorise each other – and ourselves – by the strengths we see on display in everyday life. But a crisis reveals the strengths we may have never even known existed. Let’s not forget these as we rebuild in the coming months.

 

Lesson 3: We can rise to any occasion.

You may have seen the heartwarming clips of Italians singing from their balconies during the worst of their lockdown. Then a German community raised their voice in solidarity. And around the world, the joy spread.

There have been more practical displays of communities making the most of their struggles. Here in Vietnam, volunteers have set up free ‘rice ATMs’ so that families without enough can simply go and get the rice they need, no questions asked.

Right now, life is hard. And the response from people the world over shows that when we act as a community, we can face even the greatest challenges.

 

Lesson 4: People are wonderful.

As a charity, all of us have been worried about the future. Calls for our help have increased significantly, but a global crisis inevitably means that resources will be more scarce.

Through these terribly dark times, I have received so much encouragement and support from people, many of whom I have never even met. One person wrote to say that if we had any urgent needs, I could just ask. Slightly embarrassed, I wrote back to say that actually yes, we do indeed have some families who are desperate… and within minutes I had an assurance of a donation to help.

Others have not been in a position to help but have taken the time to write and let me know. One amazing person told me how she’s been knitting and making baby swaddles for new mothers who are doing it tough. How beautiful is that?

I could fill the blog with similar stories. It feels like the generosity and kindness of people around the world has somehow blossomed in the midst of all the sorrow and hardship.

 

Lesson 5: There is always hope.

I’m not trying to sugarcoat this situation or ignore the reality. The world is in a mess. For many millions of people, there’s not going to be a quick recovery and the coming months are going to be bleak.

And yes, I could equally write about the displays of selfishness we’ve seen on the news: the hoarding, the breaching of rules which have been implemented for our own wellbeing, the leaders who have told citizens to do one thing while they go off and do another.

But the displays of exceptional goodness that we can see far outweigh these. We’re seeing communities, cities, and even nations rally together in ways that we rarely do. We see people sacrificing themselves, going to work even knowing the dangers, to help others.

 

If we can do all this in the face of a global pandemic, then we can do it when times are more stable.

We will get through this difficult time. And we have a chance to consider who we want to be, what sort of world we want to live in. We don’t have to revert to yesterday’s normal.

Let’s learn from what has happened and take the chance that’s before us.

Related Articles

Related

Holiday Gift Guide 2017

Holiday Gift Guide 2017 Celebrate Freedom! We have something for everyone on your list — give the gift of freedom. Not For Sale is a rebellious group of brands that have come together across multiple product categories and industries to change the world. Each time you...

read more

NFS Vietnam – Mothers Day

Many countries around the world celebrated Mother’s Day on Sunday. It’s no international holiday like Christmas or New Year, but for countless millions it’s just as significant. Some women have no interest in having children. Others easily have many. And some struggle...

read more