Yesterday morning, a few Blue Dragon staff were huddled together around a table deep in conversation. Our Outreach team leader, 2 lawyers, and a social worker. Something was happening.
When they were done, I asked what was going on. The Outreach leader explained that he had come across a young girl being used as a slave to earn money on the streets here in Hanoi. She had been living with her father in a rented room, and when her father died the owner of the building informally "adopted" her - but not out of kindness.
Her new "mother" pulled her out of school and sent her out to beg and sell gum on the streets. If she doesn't make enough money, she's beaten and abused. So much so, in fact, that one of her neighbours was very happy to come and tell us everything in the hope that we can do something. Anyone familiar with Asian cultures would know it's quite rare for a neighbour to speak up about somebody else's "private business."
This is an appalling case, and the little girl has been very open with us about her desire to escape from this abuse. As a foreign charity, we don't have any power to intervene directly in such a situation, but we do have various means of getting involved and calling on the authorities to assist, so we hope to have a good resolution within a few days. Until then, the "adopted mother" knows that we're monitoring the girl's wellbeing, which is enough to ensure some temporary improvement.
Since I last wrote about the 4 girls we recovered from China, there have been several arrests of traffickers, and more to come.
The girls have all returned to their homes but are staying in contact so we can get them to hospitals for medical treatment and support them as the search for their traffickers continues. Each was trafficked by different people, and in different ways. One was met by an elderly woman at a bus station, who offered to take her to pray at a pagoda, and then arranged her abduction. Another was kidnapped by a friend of her family, promising to introduce her to a well paying job on the border with China after 2 of her relatives were hospitalised due to an accident.
We may be a long way from finalising these cases - there will be much more work to do in coming months - but we're well and truly on the way.
And among our sponsored children out in rural Bac Ninh province, we recently had an opportunity to bring 5 to hospital for health checks, thanks to a private donor. The 5 were chosen as they each had a long term ailment, and the great news is that 4 of those 5 have an excellent chance of recovery.
One of the 5 is in hospital today, having the first in a series of surgeries on her ears. She's a Grade 7 student and has never been able to hear properly, but incredibly she has gotten through school by lip reading. She's obviously a very bright and determined student. However, the hospital believes that she should be able to hear almost normally with surgery and follow up treatment.
These 3 cases we're dealing with are good illustrations of the sort of work we do. The situations are complex and sensitive; a lot of attention to detail is required for us to get things right. Most of all, to help these kids, we need to develop solutions with depth. There are no simple solutions, no quick results. But with a lot of hard work and a team approach, we stand a good chance of making some lives a whole lot better.