Thursday, June 22, 2006

The low down

I've been keeping readers in suspense over the last week or so... I need to self-censor a little here, as many of you will understand. I'm treading the fine line between wanting to tell the world about what I've been doing, and knowing that it may be best to stay discreet.

So here it is: I finally got fed up with hoping that somebody would put a stop to the in-your-face child trafficking that goes on daily between Hue and Saigon. Hundreds of children are being taken to work 10-12 hours per night around the night clubs and bars of District One in Saigon. Many of these kids are illiterate; on Tuesday of this week I stood in a rural village surrounded by dozens of girls and boys who have never seen the inside of a school. Many of their friends have already been trafficked south, and all of the children I saw were potential victims of the traffickers.

If the problem is so obvious, why does nobody act? That's a good question, but there is no good answer. While I was in Saigon, I did see that some NGOs were involved, but their efforts were actually making things worse. One British organisation had 'helped' by giving the trafficked children a T-shirt with their logo. Terrific! Now when tourists see the kids, and recognise the logo of the charity, they will be inclined to give them more money... all of which goes directly to the traffickers.

Meanwhile, a well respected youth refuge in Saigon has been 'helping' by giving free English classes to the trafficked kids. The benefit? They can then talk more to the tourists, and so get more money out of them... And again, every cent goes immediately to the traffickers.

My own plan was twofold: get the children back to their families, and get the traffickers arrested. No fooling about with useless activities to impress the international community.

And did we succeed?

We won't know for a while just what impact our trip had. As a result of The Crying Day back in April, a big chunk of our work was already done. There are now about 20 trafficked boys and girls back with their families. They will never be trafficked again.

The other kids will be returned when the traffickers are arrested... and that part of the story isn't yet finished. It won't be long, though. Something's brewing, and there's no stopping it. But for now - more suspense and a few photos.


Jonny Platt said...

Good luck Michael, I hope everything works out well - youre doing a fantastic job.

Anonymous said...

You amaze me. I have never heard so many good things about one person ever and now that I have read this...there just aren't the words that say what a great person you are. It may seem small but 1 child is priceless. The world needs more people like you :)