It started in mid-October.
Parents from a remote village in Dien Bien province of Vietnam, up near the border of Laos, got word to Blue Dragon that their children were in trouble.
More than a year ago, people came to their village offering jobs and training for the youngsters who were out of school and unemployed. All expenses paid training, no strings attached.
As time ticked by, the families realised something was wrong. Their children never called. They never came back. The children could rarely be reached by phone; on the rare occasion that they could be contacted, via the mobile phones of the adults who took them, the kids said nothing other than that they missed home.
Eventually, all of the phone numbers ceased to work. The children could not be contacted at all.
When we heard about this, we knew instantly that the children had been trafficked into the garment factories of Ho Chi Minh City. With great support from the police, we started searching for the kids, and we finally did find the factory where they had been working. But they were gone. The factory was closed.
For a while we have been at a dead end. The Ho Chi Minh City police have been looking, but no information has come to light. Blue Dragon staff have also continued investigating.
This afternoon, we believe we might have had a breakthrough. It's still too early, but we're optimistic. And if we're wrong, then we just keep on searching.
How can situations like this develop? How can parents be so naive as to send their children away with complete strangers? And how many kids are we talking about?
Simple questions, but no simple answers.
The children we're looking for are from remote and isolated parts of the country. Many don't speak Vietnamese, and many are not literate in any language. Very few have completed primary school. The photo below shows where the kids are coming from. These communities are among the most vulnerable to exploitation in the region.
As for the number of kids, so far we have been thinking there are at least 5. It now looks like that number may be much higher.
The search is on, and we're determined to find the kids. Whether it's 5 or 20, we hope to be taking them home soon.
Updates to follow on Facebook.