Vietnam Update – disBelief

Vietnam Update – disBelief

Written by Michael Brosowski

Trang is 24. As the coronavirus pandemic started impacting Vietnam just a few short months ago, she suddenly found herself unable to keep up payments on a small debt she owed.

With no prospect of finding a job, Trang was approached by a friend who told her about a job just to the north of her home, towards the border with China.

She was in a no-win situation. She didn’t really want to travel away from home, but if she didn’t then the loan sharks would be out to get her. So there only seemed to be one option: she accepted.

All my life, I never thought there was such a kind person like you… I tell other people about you. Nobody believes me. When my child comes home, you must come with her. Please let me meet you in person so my family can thank you.

Text from the mother of Trang to the Not For Sale Vietnam team

Within a day, Trang’s hope of paying off her debt had turned into a terrifying ordeal. Her friend took her to the border with China and sold her to a ring of traffickers. When they revealed their plan – to take Trang deep inland and sell her to a man who wanted a wife – she fought with all her strength.

And she succeeded. She managed to break free and run. She thought she had made it. But the traffickers hunted her down and took hold of her a second time.

They knew Trang was never going to submit to them, so they came up with another plan. They beat and tortured her, stripped her naked and raped her. Then they made her stand, took a photo, and sent it to her mother.

Along with it: a demand for $10,000. If Trang’s mother did not pay, she would be sold to a brothel and never be seen again. A fate worse than death.

When Trang’s mother called Blue Dragon, travel restrictions in China had already made rescue operations close to impossible. But somehow this was one rescue we had to complete. Trang’s terrified eyes told us that nothing in the world was more important than getting her home.

I can’t explain how we found Trang or got her to safety. We need to keep those details a secret, to keep people safe. What I can say is this: Trang crossed the border into Vietnam early on Thursday morning and we took her straight to a government quarantine centre, where she needs to wait out a mandatory isolation period.

She can’t go home right away, but Trang and her mother have had a reunion of sorts: over the phone, they have cried together and they talk constantly.

Trang is completely safe now, yet neither she nor her mother can believe that any of this happened. None of it.

The deception by a trusted friend. The attempt to sell her to a complete stranger. Trang’s courageous dash for freedom. The torture that followed. And finally, the rescue against all probability.

The terror of the past few months has shaken Trang and her mother’s belief that there is any good in the world. Helping them to heal through the coming weeks, months and years will involve restoring that belief.

Yes, there is plenty of reason to despair. Our world is in a terrible state – that’s plain for all to see.

But in these terrible times, there is still goodness to be found all around. Whether it’s the Blue Dragon rescue team finding a way to get Trang home, or the health workers on the frontline keeping us safe from COVID-19 every day, we have reason to see hope in our world.

No matter how dark things get: never, ever give up believing that better days are ahead.

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NFS Vietnam Update: Rescue in the days of COVID-19

NFS Vietnam Update: Rescue in the days of COVID-19

Written by Michael Brosowski

It took Lan more than 4 years to find a chance of escape.

In the end, it was the coronavirus that gave her the opportunity to call for help.

Trafficked from Vietnam into Hunan province, she was sold to a violent Chinese man who treated her as an object and beat her mercilessly. But as the world panicked over COVID-19, he became distracted.

With their city in lockdown, the husband saw no reason to be paranoid that Lan might escape. His inattention allowed her to steal a mobile phone, and she called her family back in southern Vietnam.

We’re all waiting for this hated epidemic to pass. For so many, it means lost jobs, financial ruin, being trapped in a foreign country, or maybe just inconvenience.  For Lan, the passing of COVID-19 is everything. Her life depends on it.

Co-Founder of Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation – Michael Brosowski

Word reached Blue Dragon, and we contacted Lan immediately in the knowledge that for now, there’s almost nothing we can do other than plan. Heavily enforced travel restrictions in China have been successful in stopping the spread of the virus, but they have made rescue operations virtually impossible.

In recent weeks we have succeeded in getting several women and a 5 year-old girl back into Vietnam (they’re all in quarantine now), but nobody can get into or out of Hunan.

Tragically, the very reason that Lan could call for help is the same reason she can not get to safety.

There are almost 30 women and girls in this exact situation right now: in contact with us but waiting, waiting. We are on the phone daily, giving assurances and constantly evaluating whether or not someone can be reached.

But Lan can’t. Not yet.

On Wednesday night, Lan was pushed beyond her limits. With rescue still possibly weeks away but with the epidemic starting to pass, her husband again took to beating her.

And she couldn’t take any more.

Lan rang the Blue Dragon rescue team with a request: Please say sorry to my family. Tell them I love them, but death would be better than one more day of this.

She couldn’t wait one more night. Lan had decided to take her own life.

When the phone fell silent, we were left helpless and shocked. COVID-19 is devastating millions across the world. But something about this is an even greater depth of injustice.

The next day, after countless unanswered calls and messages, Lan rang back.

Her voice was weak and low, but recognisable: she is still alive.

We’re all waiting for this hated epidemic to pass. For so many, it means lost jobs, financial ruin, being trapped in a foreign country, or maybe just inconvenience.

For Lan, the passing of COVID-19 is everything. Her life depends on it.

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NFS Vietnam Update

NFS Vietnam Update

Written by Michael Brosowski

It’s hardly news at all now. The coronavirus, COVID-19, has swept the world. From some murmured concerns in December, this viral infection is now the daily lead story everywhere.

People are worried. Over 130,000 are sick. Almost 5,000 have died.

In response, the world is in panic mode. Wearing a face mask is the new normal in many countries. Schools are closed, supermarket shelves are empty of basic items, flights and events have been cancelled.

This isn’t easy on anybody.

The world has seen global crises before, and we will again. And every time, it’s the poorest in society who are the hardest hit.

Co-Founder of Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation – Michael Brosowski

And without diminishing these very real fears and tragedies, we can see that it’s the world’s most vulnerable who are facing the grimmest of futures because of the virus.

Families living without access to health facilities – or without the ability to pay for testing – can do nothing but hope they don’t fall ill.

Women who spend all day selling their goods in the crowded markets of villages around the world have to choose between working in a high-risk environment… or their whole family going hungry.

Elderly and chronically ill people, who are most at risk of fatal consequences if they catch the virus, risk being stranded at home alone, knowing that simply going out in public poses a risk to their life.

And for Blue Dragon, a very particular group of people is suffering: women and girls in slavery.

Blue Dragon is well known for our rescues of people who have been trafficked and sold for labor or sexual exploitation. Last year alone, we rescued 111 women and girls who had been trafficked from Vietnam into China and sold, mostly to men wanting wives.

Since the coronavirus forced the closure of the Chinese-Vietnamese border, and travel within China became heavily restricted, these rescues have all but ceased. We’ve succeeded in getting just a few people out of slavery and into safe houses to hide while waiting for the restrictions to pass.

Calls for help, however, keep coming. And while all are urgent, some are extremely distressing. One woman last week made the call at risk of her life, knowing that calling for help would be dangerous, but if she cannot escape she will be killed anyway.

The man who bought her beats her routinely and regularly. It’s just a matter of time before he kills her.

That woman is safe now – but there are 27 more people in contact with Blue Dragon hoping we can get to them too.

The coronavirus is bad for everyone, without exception. For the world’s poorest and most vulnerable, the virus is a risk to their life whether they are infected or not.

So what can I do?

If you want to take action, don’t feel helpless. Some ways you can help right now:

  • Check with your neighbors and community – are there elderly people, single parents with kids at home, or chronically ill people who need supplies delivered to their home? Or just a friendly phone call to check in on how they are doing?
  • Make a donation. Right now, charities around the world are canceling fundraising events, and donations are drying up. If you have a few spare dollars, they will be deeply appreciated.
  • Support your local businesses. Unless your government (or a doctor!) advises otherwise, get down to the shops with your facemask on rather than ordering from giant, automated online systems. The first people to lose their jobs as business slows down will be those who are already on low salaries in your local shop or cafe.

The world has seen global crises before, and we will again. And every time, it’s the poorest in society who are the hardest hit.

As we pull through the coronavirus in coming months, let’s stay determined to make the world a more just, fairer place for all people, for the long term.

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