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 – 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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The story of a 7 year old girl from Northern Thailand

The story of a 7 year old girl from Northern Thailand

The story of a 7 year old girl from Northern Thailand

Written by Not For Sale

Today is Giving Tuesday, a global day of giving and unity in response to the unprecedented need caused by COVID-19.  I wanted to share with you an incredible story of freedom, made possible only by the support and donations you continue to provide. 

Today I send you my heartfelt thanks, and hope you share this story with others and encourage them to support our cause, as you have. 

The best pathway to a future, and potentially citizenship, was education.

David Batstone – co-founder Not For Sale

When I first met Krunam in 2006 on a visit to the border of Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand (The Golden Triangle), I was struck by her grit.  She was a mother bear, who would fight for every last one of her cubs. At that time she had rescued 27 kids from the karaoke bars and mafia beggar rings that exploited children.

My first promise to her was that I would provide shelter for those 27 kids. Once secure in a safe home, the next step was to provide an education. Almost all of these kids were “stateless” – ethnic tribal groups that no country would claim as citizens.

The best pathway to a future, and potentially citizenship, was education.

We have sent hundreds of stateless and trafficked kids to schools over the past thirteen years.  Last year alone (2019) Not For Sale Thailand sent 39 children from our village to some of the best boarding high schools in the country, and three went to university.

In 2015 we were proud that two of our “Not For Sale” children, a boy and a girl, became the first two stateless children to graduate from a Thai university in the history of the country.

That opened the door for others to follow.

In this short video I share the story of Bupa, a young girl who came to live with Krunam when she was 7 years old. Her story is beyond inspirational.

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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 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.

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Co-Founder Update

Co-Founder Update

Written by Mark Wexler

This week I’d like to provide you updates from several of our projects in the field. The effects that COVID-19 is having on our community of survivors is very real. 

Peruvian Amazon

Our fishery project deep in the Peruvian Amazon has been crucial to keeping many indigenous communities COVID-19 free because they don’t need to travel into the city to purchase their protein. If the people there contracted COVID-19 it would have horrific effects, as they lack access to hospitals that are equipped to handle the pandemic. However, adding new fisheries was halted last month because of a funding shortage due to COVID-19.

“Not since the early days of the HIV pandemic have I witnessed such challenges. South Africa is under lockdown. There is so much fear around what Covid-19 could do because of the number of people with HIV.”

Southern Africa Not For Sale Director – Tom Hewitt

Bahn Kru Nam, Golden Triangle, Thailand

Typically, half of the kids that live at our Bahn Kru Nam community home attend boarding schools during the school year. Due to COVID-19, all of our kids are back living in the home. This has put great stress on our staff, who now have to feed more kids than expected, help with school work, and much more. Making things more difficult, food costs have tripled, putting pressure on our already limited budget, which had to be cut due to COVID-related funding shortages. 

 

Durban, South Africa

Our Southern Africa director, Tom Hewitt, shared the following: “Not since the early days of the HIV pandemic have I witnessed such challenges. South Africa is under lockdown. There is so much fear around what Covid-19 could do because of the number of people with HIV.”

We have ensured that all of our children are in safe local care throughout this lockdown period. This plan is vital as the homeless are being rounded up and put in poor conditions in stadiums and “hostels.”

At this critical time, our funding to support our work in South Africa has been cut short due to COVID-19.

 

We will continue to share updates from the field and the reality of the effect that COVID-19 is having on our work. Thank you for your continued support.

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