Sunday, July 08, 2012

This is not a drive by

Seven youths, aged about 15 to 20, have made it home to their families in the remote mountains of Vietnam after up to 4 years in captivity in a garment factory.

Some are illiterate and innumerate, with no understanding of what money is or how it is used.

Some have never seen a bowl of pho before.

None know their date of birth.

Extremely vulnerable, desperately impoverished, and living in ethnic minority villages off the electricity grid, these kids were deceived by a trafficker offering them training and an income. Instead, they were locked into a factory, refused permission to go home, and paid absolutely nothing.

They worked 18 hours a day, eating nothing but steamed rice and instant noodles. Beatings and physical punishment were routine.

Now they're home. But Blue Dragon is not finished yet.

Having found the building where they were enslaved and garnered the support of police and local officials to raid the factory, we now have 2 more commitments to fulfill.

First, the trafficker needs to be prosecuted. Not out of revenge, but according to the law. He and his wife put these 7 young people through hell. He assumed that, because they were poor and vulnerable, nobody would care. That is not acceptable, and the kids need to see that the law is there to protect them.

And second, these 7 young people will need ongoing support, care, and education. It's not enough for us to give them their freedom; we cannot expect a fairytale ending. They need significant assistance to get their lives back on track.

We are proud to have rescued these kids out of slavery, but the true worth of our work will be in what we do over the coming months and years. Like the hit song says: This is not a drive by. We're here for the long term.

... And just in case you didn't see this on the Blue Dragon Facebook page, we've just created this short film documenting the story of one girl from Hue, Diep, who was also trafficked to a garment factory.

1 comment:

Van Do said...

Dear Sir,

I'm Thu Van from Hanoi - Amsterdam High School. I'm currently a volunteer at Blue Dragon Children's Foundation. I was first drawn to Blue Dragon by reading the blog you regularly write about your observation in Hanoi's streets. I was so struck at that time with all the achievements Blue Dragon have made due to the idea of an Australian (where's other Vietnamese who say they'll do something?), and at the same time, I was so inspired by what you write. So I registered to be a volunteer and I got in. Last summer I assisted a group of disabled kids to learn basic swimming skills and now am tutoring 2 groups of peers (they're around my age). These experiences in the summer, in retrospect, shimmer like the waves under summer's sunlight.

Up till now I'm feeling so so grateful to having a chance to be a volunteer at Blue Dragon. I can rant for hours on end about how being part of Blue means to me, how I, for the very first time, had the feeling of giving back to my community (because other volunteer organization in Vietnam doesn't share the trait of giving volunteers 'true' experiences of volunteering; things are made up to appear on papers).

Lately I have come up with a number of questions on how 'foreigners' have contributed to our city and how they find another country different from their nationality 'a strange root'. Would you mind sparing some minutes to explain to me these questions? I've been stuck with them and I can't really satisfy with my own explanation. So, what prompts you to start a children's foundation here in Hanoi, not in your country Australia? Is it because the community of kids in need of care in Canada is much smaller than that in here? What traits that you share with other 'foreigners' who choose to stay in and have a career in Vietnam? What makes you see things in Hanoi so positively and constructively (because it's much better than how the older generation think about our society today)?