Nga was glad to start life over. Her husband had been a violent alcoholic, and she knew that leaving him behind and taking their young children away to live with her mother was the only way to keep them safe.
Being a single mother in rural Vietnam is never easy: there are always suspicious eyes and gossiping tongues, but Nga was determined to ignore them all. With help from her mother, she set up a tea stall and began to make some money - not very much, but the work kept her busy and she made just enough to keep the children in school. Nga started to feel that maybe things were going to be OK.
And then something wonderful happened: she made a friend! Another woman in the town, Giang, started frequenting her tea stall, showing simple kindness from day to day and making Nga confident in herself. Giang would even look after her children when Nga was busy.
Some months later, when Giang invited Nga to travel with her to the border of China on business, Nga had no reason to be concerned. Giang's sister offered to look after Nga's children for the day, and Giang was able to pay a little in return for Nga helping carrying some goods home. It was all very straightforward and natural.
What happened, though, was anything but what Nga expected. The 2 women traveled into the hills bordering China, where 2 men met them - evidently they were friends of Giang. Still everything seemed fine, but when Nga began to feel uncomfortable and request that they start heading back to the Vietnamese side of the border, her worst nightmare came true. Giang had sold her for $2000 to these men, and there was no chance now that she could go home. Giang turned back to Vietnam, and Nga was alone with these strangers in a terrifying situation.
Nga put up a fight: she had children to get back to. She could not be taken so easily! Even in this sudden surge of fear, her first thought was for her sons.
The men dragged her to a stream and told her that she had three choices. They could drown her, here and now, and leave her body in the stream. Or she could go to work in a brothel to pay off the debt. Or she could be sold as a wife to a Chinese man.
Nga continued to fight: she chose none. She only wanted to get home to her children.
Realising they were in for a battle, the men took Nga deeper into China and locked her into a home. For two weeks, they tortured and terrified her. So far Nga has still not disclosed all that happened in that house during this time; but for all the men put her through, she continued to resist.
Finally the men realised how to make this incredibly strong woman bend to her will: they threatened her children.
Nga's youngest child was still in the care of Giang, back in Vietnam. Giang had kept the little boy, telling Nga's mother that Nga was off on business and would be back soon.
After 2 weeks of torture, the men called Giang and put Nga's son on the phone.They told her plainly: make your choice, or your son dies.
Nga agreed to be sold as a bride.
The men took Nga in a car, traveling over 2000km, until they reached their destination and sold Nga for $12,000 to a Chinese man who believed he was paying a dowry to a Vietnamese woman who wanted to move to China. For a few weeks, Nga complied with everything expected of her - but secretly planned and plotted her escape.
Her chance came when she met a Chinese woman who spoke some Vietnamese. Nga befriended the woman, and finally borrowed her phone to make a call home.
Once Nga had made that call, word reached us at Blue Dragon and within 2 weeks we put in place a rescue operation. Nga is home now, and the 5 key people involved in this trafficking ring are all in custody.
Most of the people we rescue are children and teens; we have rarely been involved in the rescue of a parent. However, Nga's traffickers were also trading in young people; and regardless of her age, Nga was in a desperate situation and needed help.
I am convinced that these rescues are worthwhile: they are difficult and dangerous, but the impact is enormous. First, a single life is changed beyond any words can express. If not for the Blue Dragon rescue team, Nga would still be a servant bride in China, and her children and her mother would have no idea where she was or why she failed to come home.
And second, it is not only Nga who has been rescued. With the entire trafficking ring disabled, nobody can estimate how many women and girls are now safe who otherwise would have fallen victim to their tricks.
What worries, me, though, is that these traffickers are well financed and highly motivated. Nga was sold for $2,000 and then, following 2 weeks of torture, the ring that bought her made a 500% profit.
Putting these guys out of business will never be easy. In this case, it was a mother's love that saved the day. Nga's determination to get home and protect her children was more powerful than the violence used against her; and no amount of money was going to stand in her way.
Because of that love, Nga's story can have a happy ending. I think her kids must be the luckiest children in the world, to have a mother who loves them so fiercely.