NFS Vietnam – The Chance

NFS Vietnam – The Chance

NFS Vietnam – The Chance

Written by Michael Brosowski

Phi ran away from home as soon as he could.

For 3 weeks, during Vietnam’s pandemic lockdown, he was inside his family’s timber shack with its dirt floor and asbestos roof, high up in the mountains of northern Vietnam.

Phi’s family is desperately poor, and what little money they have his father likes to spend on rice wine.

Within hours of Vietnam’s social distancing measures being lifted, Phi was out the door, down the muddy track, and on his way to Hanoi – a journey of almost 12 hours.

Aged 14, Phi had never been alone before. He was exhausted and hungry after weeks of not having enough to eat, but believed life would be better if only he could make it to the city.

Many kids come to the city thinking everything will be just great. It never is.

At a time when our world is bleeding, there’s such an enormous need for healing and care. Child by child, family by family, we have an obligation to help those around us who haven’t been given a fair chance in life.

Director of Not For Sale Vietnam

Phi spent almost 2 months begging and sleeping on the city streets before a Blue Dragon social worker met him. He lost count of how many times he was approached by pimps and pedophiles offering to ‘help’, but despite his desperation he was determined to stay safe.

After a few days in a Blue Dragon shelter, Phi trusted us to take him home. One of the social workers made the long journey with him back to his village; by bus, motorbike, and sometimes on foot when the road turned into nothing but mud.

With their son missing for two months, Phi’s parents had been beside themselves with worry. They reported to the police but had no information or idea where their son could be. They feared the worst.

Blue Dragon and Not For Sale Vietnam do offer homes to young people, boys and girls, who cannot stay with their families, but in the vast majority of cases, children and their parents are better off together, so long as they get some support to make it work.

For Phi, that means helping his parents understand how to better show their love for their son, and some practical help with basic needs as they continue to recover from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

It also meant a trip to Phi’s school, along with Phi and his mother, to make sure he could re-enroll and return to class immediately. Because his home is so remote, Phi studies in a boarding school, so he will live there during the week and go home for weekends.

The teachers have promised to look out for Phi and to check on him if he stops turning up to class. They didn’t know he was having such difficulty at home; now they do, and they’ve committed to making sure he’s OK.

Our experience is that once we have taken a child home and spoken with the family and community, home life almost always becomes much more tolerable for kids like Phi. Their suffering and their struggle becomes visible; the people around them wake up to their needs and take on the responsibility to care for them.

At a time when our world is bleeding, there’s such an enormous need for healing and care. Child by child, family by family, we have an obligation to help those around us who haven’t been given a fair chance in life.

Phi never asked to be born into extreme poverty, or to have an alcoholic father. He deserves the chance to make something of his life, so that his generation can leave behind a world that’s much fairer and just than the one they have inherited.

Phi is now safe and will continue receiving support from Blue Dragon and Not For Sale Vietnam for as long as he needs it. He sees that life has the possibility of something better. And Blue Dragon is back out on the streets looking for more children just like him, who are yet to get the chance that they need to turn their lives around.

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NFS Vietnam – The Chance

Phi ran away from home as soon as he could. For 3 weeks, during Vietnam’s pandemic lockdown, he was inside his family’s timber shack with its dirt floor and asbestos roof, high up in the mountains of northern Vietnam. Phi’s family is desperately poor, and what little...

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NFS Vietnam – Your Little Bit

NFS Vietnam – Your Little Bit

NFS Vietnam – Your Little Bit

Written by Michael Brosowski

It’s hard to NOT feel like the world is broken.

For months we’ve been struggling with a global pandemic that has so far claimed over 370,000 lives, shut down countries, decimated whole sectors of the economy, and sparked deep divisions in places where people cannot agree on how to resolve the crisis.

Now we’re watching as terrifying footage streams around the US. With yet another black man killed while being arrested, the country has exploded in anger. Protests and riots have been met with deadly force by police. We’ve seen journalists arrested live on TV; police cars ram into protestors; buildings burnt to the ground.

And while these daily crises roll out in front of us, the world’s climate continues to grow more extreme, and at a more abrupt rate as time goes by.

It’s ok to be angry, or frustrated, or saddened by world events that you cannot change. But take control of what you can. It may only be a little bit, but it will make a world of difference.

Not For Sale Vietnam Director

No matter what your view, something we can agree on is that this is not how our world should be.

So what to do?

Looking at the big picture, it’s easy to be overwhelmed. How to end institutionalized racism, and a global pandemic, and hold back climate change? None of us can do that… can we?

On our own we can’t change the whole world. But there’s still something we can do – something small but powerful. And the times are calling on us to act.

It’s as simple as this: We each have to find our own little bit. The one thing that we can do to make things better.

For some people, that might mean volunteering at a local shelter to cook meals. It might mean donating to a charity that does work you wish you could do yourself. It might mean picking up the phone and calling someone who’s unable to get out of the house themselves at the moment. It might mean switching the way you shop, so that you buy less and give your business to more environmentally-conscious companies.

What’s your little bit? What’s the one thing that you can do that will make one patch of the earth a better place?

I want to share something that we did at Blue Dragon this week. Something small, but life-changing. Something that will never make headlines, but has changed the world for one little girl.

Since the coronavirus pandemic shut down schools throughout Vietnam, kids here have been doing it tough, especially out in the rural parts of the country where life is already hard.

When schools opened again a few weeks ago, plenty of students simply did not return to the classroom. In the months that schools shut down, many started working in jobs, or got married, or for whatever reason have set off down a path that prevents them from going back to school.

One of those kids is Chu. She’s a 6th grader, just 12 years old, up in the mountains close to China.

Chu’s mother died a few years ago, so Chu has long had an important role in keeping the family together. Her father works in corn fields far from home so while schools were closed, he came to rely on his daughter looking after her younger brothers.

When school started up again, he decided to keep Chu at home. He could work more, and earn more money, with her looking after the brothers.

When we heard about this, Blue Dragon’s staff in the province got on a motorbike and rode up through the mountains to talk to Chu’s dad. He didn’t agree at first. He didn’t see why it was so important for Chu to get an education anyway.

Over a few days, he heard what Blue Dragon had to say and he saw that his own little girl really wanted to go back to school. In fact, Chu revealed that her dream in life is to be a teacher for other ethnic minority kids like herself.

Chu’s dad changed his mind. He could see that Chu wanted, and needed, to be in school. So he agreed, and now she’s back to her studies.

That one little bit won’t bring world peace, but Chu’s life will always be better for it. It’s a well established fact that keeping girls in school is a powerful contributor to social and economic development.

And one day in years to come, I would think that she’ll do everything in her power for her own children to get an education too.

When you do your little bit, you may never know what effects will ripple out to others. You may never see the impact of what you’ve done. You should do it anyway.

It’s ok to be angry, or frustrated, or saddened by world events that you cannot change. But take control of what you can. It may only be a little bit, but it will make a world of difference.

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NFS Vietnam – The Chance

Phi ran away from home as soon as he could. For 3 weeks, during Vietnam’s pandemic lockdown, he was inside his family’s timber shack with its dirt floor and asbestos roof, high up in the mountains of northern Vietnam. Phi’s family is desperately poor, and what little...

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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.

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NFS Vietnam – The Chance

Phi ran away from home as soon as he could. For 3 weeks, during Vietnam’s pandemic lockdown, he was inside his family’s timber shack with its dirt floor and asbestos roof, high up in the mountains of northern Vietnam. Phi’s family is desperately poor, and what little...

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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.

 

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NFS Vietnam – The Chance

Phi ran away from home as soon as he could. For 3 weeks, during Vietnam’s pandemic lockdown, he was inside his family’s timber shack with its dirt floor and asbestos roof, high up in the mountains of northern Vietnam. Phi’s family is desperately poor, and what little...

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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.

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NFS Vietnam – The Chance

Phi ran away from home as soon as he could. For 3 weeks, during Vietnam’s pandemic lockdown, he was inside his family’s timber shack with its dirt floor and asbestos roof, high up in the mountains of northern Vietnam. Phi’s family is desperately poor, and what little...

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