A Shocking Revelation

A Shocking Revelation

Written by Michael Brosowski

Anh’s rescue seemed like a miracle.

But at the time she crossed the border back into Vietnam, none of us knew that even greater surprise was yet to come.

Anh was taken and sold to a trafficking ring when she was 13, and has spent the last 5 years trapped in a forced marriage in the Chinese Inner Mongolia autonomous region, almost 5,000 km from her home on the south coast of Vietnam.

Not For Sale Vietnam partners Blue Dragon freed Anh from her captors in a particularly challenging rescue over a month ago. The distances involved, with the added complication of the coronavirus pandemic, made it seem almost impossible. 

This is the reality of human trafficking. Humanity is stripped from the victim; abuse upon abuse violates their most fundamental rights. And so often, it is those who are already poor and suffering who are most likely to be the target of this crime.

Not For Sale Vietnam Director

Once she was back in Vietnam, Anh’s first destination was a quarantine centre, and two weeks later she finally reached a Blue Dragon safe house.

When NFS Vietnam and Blue Dragon rescue a person from trafficking, we offer a full range of services: accommodation, counseling, clothing and food, and of course health care.

Anh’s visit to the hospital led to a shocking revelation. She was 8 months pregnant.

There was almost no visible sign that she was pregnant, and Anh had never even thought it possible. The man in Inner Mongolia who had bought her was sterile.

Anh was in shock. Having been held captive for the past 5 years, she has very little education and experience of the world. But she knew that some months previously she had been taken to a clinic and undergone an invasive procedure. On reflection, it appears she was artificially impregnated without her knowledge.

For this young woman, just going on 19, the discovery that she would soon be a mother was a massive blow. Just when she thought she could start to take control of her life, this unexpected development was the last thing she could have imagined.

But Anh is incredibly strong, and after making statements to police in Hanoi, she was ready to return to her home and be reunited with her mother.

Blue Dragon staff accompanied her home, meeting the family and along the way learning that Anh comes from extreme poverty. Her family house is made of empty shrimp feed bags stitched together and tied to a frame.

Anh and her mother, reunited in their family home after 5 years apart

Despite the incredible hardship and the shock of being pregnant, Anh was overjoyed to be home. Her reunion with her mother was desperately sad. They have missed such important time together and have so much now to make up for.

Just a few days after returning home, Anh started feeling pain. Her mother rushed her to the hospital where she gave birth – to twins. A boy and a girl.

At just 32 weeks, they are in a very fragile state and both in incubation. Their start to life has been everything it should not but they are alive and in good care.

This is the reality of human trafficking. Humanity is stripped from the victim; abuse upon abuse violates their most fundamental rights. And so often, it is those who are already poor and suffering who are most likely to be the target of this crime.

This is why we have to rid our world of this scourge. Anh’s story is far from over, and Blue Dragon will be working with her for some years yet. A wonderful family in the US has sent an incredible gift of $3,500 to pay for the care, food and medical treatment that Anh and her two children need; this will get them through a year or more.

In coming weeks we may put out a call to help rebuild Anh’s house, or help her buy land somewhere so that she doesn’t have to raise her babies in such a dire situation. We don’t yet know exactly what will be needed but this family deserves all the help they can get.

No matter how you look at it, Anh is the victim of some terrible injustices. While we can’t turn back the clock and stop them from happening to her, we can make sure she and her children have a future worth living.

And while we do that, we will continue fighting against human trafficking until every child, woman and man is safe from it.

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NFS Vietnam – After lockdown, a narrow escape

NFS Vietnam – After lockdown, a narrow escape

Written by Michael Brosowski

Alang and Chue were glad to see the end of Vietnam’s lockdown.

The two young men live in one of the many isolated villages dotting the border region of Vietnam close to China. Now aged 19 and 20, they had grown up together under the magnificent open skies of their mountain home.

For them and their families, lockdown had meant severe hardship. With no work and no income, there was precious little food for 3 weeks.

But the end of lockdown didn’t mean their hard times were over. With businesses closed and the global economy in a slump, many jobs have simply evaporated. Alang and Chue worked odd jobs here and there, but it wasn’t enough.

So when they heard of a company that was hiring somewhere to the south, they reluctantly agreed to go. It was not an easy choice – but faced with grinding poverty, it didn’t seem like much of a choice at all.

While the lockdowns of COVID-19 have made life extremely difficult, this post-lockdown era remains a time of terrible vulnerability and danger.

Director of Not For Sale Vietnam

The friends were taken over 2,200km by bus to the southern tip of Vietnam. Once there, instead of being introduced to an employer, they were taken hold of by a fishing crew that was preparing to set out to sea.

Alang and Chue had been sold.

For several days they were held captive at a port and put through basic training to prepare them for life on the ocean. The boat owner threatened them with a gun, forced them to sign a loan contract, and then demanded that they agree to work off their fake ‘loan’ on his boat.

One of the other fishermen, feeling sorry for the terrified young men, gave them a phone. His whispered warning confirmed their fears: If they went to sea, it would be forever. They would not see land again.

Alang and Chue’s call for help reached Not For Sale partnters Blue Dragon, and by good fortune we had staff in the area working on another case. Within a few hours we were able to guide the friends by phone to escape and hide in a safe place until we could reach them.

The two young men are with us now and will soon be back with their families.

They’ve had a very narrow escape from what would have been a terrible fate. As mountain boys, they had no knowledge of the sea – neither can swim, and before this journey neither had seen a river, let alone the ocean. Surely they could not have survived long on the boat.

Alang and Chue can now get on with their lives, and we’ll see how Blue Dragon can help, but there are still plenty of traffickers out there looking for more victims.

While the lockdowns of COVID-19 have made life extremely difficult, this post-lockdown era remains a time of terrible vulnerability and danger.

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Anh’s rescue seemed like a miracle. But at the time she crossed the border back into Vietnam, none of us knew that even greater surprise was yet to come. Anh was taken and sold to a trafficking ring when she was 13, and has spent the last 5 years trapped in a forced...

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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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Anh’s rescue seemed like a miracle. But at the time she crossed the border back into Vietnam, none of us knew that even greater surprise was yet to come. Anh was taken and sold to a trafficking ring when she was 13, and has spent the last 5 years trapped in a forced...

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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 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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Ha had been trafficked and sold; every moment of her life was terrifying. Then her city went into a pandemic lockdown, and suddenly everything became worse. Before all this, a ‘lockdown’ happened during terrorist incidents and bomb scares. Now they’re a part of...

read more

A Shocking Revelation

Anh’s rescue seemed like a miracle. But at the time she crossed the border back into Vietnam, none of us knew that even greater surprise was yet to come. Anh was taken and sold to a trafficking ring when she was 13, and has spent the last 5 years trapped in a forced...

read more