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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I am, because you are

I am, because you are

Written by Mark Wexler

15 years ago I sat on a balcony overlooking the Indian Ocean in Durban, South Africa. I was with my former professor and future co-founder of Not For Sale, David Batstone. Stiff drink in hand, we discussed this insane thing called human trafficking.

It was during this conversation that we decided to start Not For Sale.

For the previous half year I had worked with a friend, Tom Hewitt, assisting his non-profit organization that uses sport to support at-risk and exploited youth. Tom later became Not For Sale’s Southern Africa Director, helping drive our programming in both South Africa and Mozambique. 

One of the many lasting things that stayed with me from my time in Southern African was an ethic called ubuntu. 

Quite literally my humanity is tied to yours, and your humanity is tied to mine. And our humanity is tied to the people that Not For Sale serves on a daily basis.

Co-Founder of Not For Sale – Mark Wexler

A rough translation of ubuntu’s meaning is: “I am because you are.” 

Another way to think of ubuntu, is that everything I do has an effect on you and your well being, and everything you do has an effect on me and my well being. Sure, we might be different, but undoubtedly we are interconnected. And importantly that is what animates our humanity. Our connectedness is actually what makes us…. us. 

Today, for the first time ever, on a global scale we are facing down a foe, COVID-19, that illuminates these (for many of us) previously invisible ties of ubuntu. Quite literally my humanity is tied to yours, and your humanity is tied to mine. And our humanity is tied to the people that Not For Sale serves on a daily basis.

Over the last few days we have talked with many of Not For Sale’s project leaders around the world. COVID-19 is having a real effect on people we serve.

We wanted to briefly share with you some of the immediately known effects on our work:

UGANDA: Last year Not For Sale supported 1,512 children refugees gain access to education in Uganda. We learned Friday that schools have been ordered closed for a month as a precaution. This will have a massive ripple effect on our kids. For most of them the food they receive at our school is the only meal they eat on any given day. We’re working on a way to safely deliver meals throughout the refugee camp.

NETHERLANDS: Our Dignita restaurants in Amsterdam have been ordered closed indefinitely. This has meant that our culinary training program for survivors, which supported 164 people last year, is working to set up an online video training course.

VIETNAM: Our partners are seeing an uptick in human traffickers preying on people most effected by COVID-19. This is in large part due to business closures and job losses which means that families are unable to provide for their children. It means that teenage girls are at higher risk of early marriage. But even through all this, just yesterday, our team rescued a 23 year old woman that was trafficked into China 6 months ago. (She remains in 2 week quarantine.) 

Over the duration of this crisis, we will be sharing with you updates on the effect COVID-19 is having on our team, friends, partners, and the people that we serve. Later this week we will share with you an interview with co-founder, David Batstone. 

More than ever we are committed to helping people that need support. Our resolve has not wavered, it is only strengthened by what we are up against with COVID-19.

In the spirit of ubuntu, acknowledging our interconnectedness, we will also be coming to you, our Not For Sale family, as specific needs arise in our community of survivors and at-risk people to appeal for your help as well. 

In Solidarity, Mark Wexler

Co-Founder & CEO, Not For Sale

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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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Meet Huong and Trang: Not For Sale Vietnam

Meet two of our caregivers at Not For Sale Vietnam, Huong and Trang.

Huong has been a valuable part of the Not For Sale team for over a decade now and has had the opportunity to develop deep bonds with many of the boys in the program. Recovery from trauma is a long, difficult journey, and Huong is there to support the survivors every step of the way. She plays a key role in their development of confidence and self-sufficiency.

Also essential to the boys’ recovery process, Trang is another Not For Sale trailblazer. Her passion for the anti-human-trafficking movement was ignited when Not For Sale sponsored her son’s surgery in 2006. Since then, she has become actively involved in multiple aspects of the boys’ lives – from cooking family meals to facilitating the development of crucial life skills. Tranghe ensures that when the boys leave the shelter, they are prepared for bright futures.

We are in awe of these powerful women’s dedication to the fight against commercial child exploitation! #SheInspiresMe

Against All Odds: Hoang’s Path to Rebuilding his Life

Against All Odds: Hoang’s Path to Rebuilding his Life

This month, Not For Sale launches our #InnovateForGood campaign. We’ll be celebrating outside-the-box thinkers who are creating solutions for injustice through entrepreneurship, and stories of global impact from innovators in the Not For Sale ecosystem and beyond!

As a child, Hoang* was a victim of severe domestic abuse. Before he received help from Not For Sale Vietnam, he endured in silence and bottled the fear and pain tightly inside him. Recognizing the trauma he had suffered, Not For Sale Vietnam created opportunities to care for his psychological, physical, social, and educational needs.

Today, Hoang has discovered his passions, and rebuilt his self-esteem and trust in the world. Hoang found his dream in becoming a Dessert Chef, and he hopes to travel abroad to learn from French Dessert Chefs in the future. Not For Sale Vietnam will support his goals and help him realize a life where he is able to provide for himself – and find happiness.

Learn more about the Not For Sale Vietnam project.

*Name changed for Hoang’s protection.

Not For Sale partners with the Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation. Blue Dragon kids are street kids, children with disabilities, children from rural families living in extreme poverty, and victims of human trafficking and slavery. Not For Sale and Blue Dragon aim to rescue kids from danger, reunite them with their families when we can, and provide all the services needed for recovery and growth. Visit Blue Dragon’s page for more information.

NFS x Vietnam || “Brothers Home”

NFS x Vietnam || “Brothers Home”

This month, Not For Sale launches our #InnovateForGood campaign. We’ll be celebrating outside-the-box thinkers who are creating solutions for injustice through entrepreneurship, and stories of global impact from innovators in the Not For Sale ecosystem and beyond!

NFS x Vietnam || "Brothers Home" ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~.Street kids in Hanoi often need to sleep under bridges because they have no where else to stay... this leaves them vulnerable.. Not For Sale’s work (in partnership with Blue Dragon) places these street kids in shelter and safe environments!

Posted by Not For Sale on Tuesday, September 5, 2017

NFS x Vietnam || “Brothers Home”

Street kids in Hanoi often need to sleep under bridges because they have no where else to stay… this leaves them vulnerable.. Not For Sale’s work (in partnership with Blue Dragon) places these street kids in shelter and safe environments!

Blue Dragon kids are street kids, children with disabilities, children from rural families living in extreme poverty, and victims of human trafficking and slavery. Not For Sale and Blue Dragon aim to rescue kids from danger, reunite them with their families when we can, and provide all the services needed for recovery and growth. Visit Blue Dragon’s page for more information.