The decision

His childhood broken, Tung faced abuse and homelessness… until the day he made the decision that changed his life.

Tung’s early years had wonderful moments of joy.

He has some very happy memories of his mother. They travelled together on holidays, and when she was sick he stayed with her at their home, nursing her through the long nights of her fever.

When she died, Tung’s world turned upside down.

He was still just a child, barely a teenager. But the extended family looked to him as somehow to blame for the bad luck that had fallen on the household. A mix of superstition and long-held resentment bubbled to the surface, and Tung was driven from the house into a pig sty where he slept alone.

His carefree childhood was gone.

Tung knew he had to fend for himself. He refused to be treated so badly by his uncles and cousins, so he decided to leave. With nothing in his pocket, and no need of a bag, he hopped on a bus to the city.

He had never thought that he might one day be a ‘street kid’. In fact he’d never heard the term before. But his new life was exactly that: sleeping rough, living from day to day.

Tung was smart and quickly connected with other teen boys like himself. They too had traveled to Hanoi from their villages in search of a better life. They too were broke, homeless, and desperate.

Sometimes Tung was lucky. Sometimes he would find a job on a building site or with a work crew, and earn enough to get by. But there was always someone who would make trouble, or demand too much of the little boy. None of the jobs ever lasted very long.

After some months, when he thought he was at rock bottom, life took an even worse turn. Tung was spotted by a pimp and became the target of a ring of men exploiting homeless kids.

Tung was a good looking boy, and became a favourite for the men. At first he followed them out of a desperation to survive – he simply needed money so he could eat and have a place to sleep.

As time went on, going with the men was a way to punish himself. Tung hated what they did to him. He hated their lies and their manipulations. He hated the way they treated him as an object to be used and discarded. But he began believing that he deserved the pain, that it was payback for all his life’s failings. And so he kept going.

At the time Blue Dragon met Tung, as an organisation we were overwhelmed with similar cases. Most of the homeless boys we met on the streets of the city had been abused, and their stories were horrifying.

We were in the early days of exposing the networks of pimps, and working with the authorities to change the law so that abusing boys was clearly forbidden. We feared that the harm done to Tung might be more than we could help with.

Tung was damaged – there’s no other way to say it. He lived in a cycle of harm and self-loathing. He wanted our help, but couldn’t accept that he deserved it.

Sometimes we meet kids on the streets and they instantly become a part of Blue Dragon. For some kids, like Tung, it’s a much longer process. Tung would be at the centre some days, and then disappear for a week. He’d be the happiest kid at the shelter one night, and then be fighting with everyone the next, before walking out and heading back to the streets.

Tung needed someone to believe in him – no matter what. He needed someone to stand up for him, to go out looking for him when he didn’t come home, and to see him for who he was, not for what he had done. He found all of that in Blue Dragon.

Over many months, Tung would come and go. Everything would be fine one day, and the next he would be gone. From time to time the police would detain him for getting into a scuffle on the street, or some minor offense, and they’d call Blue Dragon to come pick him up.

On one of these occasions, Tung was in custody for some days. The morning of his release, one of the Blue Dragon staff rode down on their motorbike to pick him up.

As they headed towards the shelter, the staff took some money from their pocket and handed it back to Tung with a simple offer: “You can take this if you like and head back out to see your friends. You’ll always be welcome at Blue Dragon and you can come see us any time. Or we can go back right now to the shelter and start over. It’s your choice, and we’ll always be friends no matter what.”

This stint in custody was to be Tung’s last. His mind was made up. “I’m staying with Blue Dragon,” Tung told the social worker. “Please take me home.”

It took several years for Tung to settle down and return to school. He eventually did some training and then got a job in music and hospitality – which he’s brilliant at. It was a bumpy ride, but he got there in the end.

When Vietnamese law changed, his main abusers were arrested and imprisoned. Seeing justice served was important to his healing. Eventually Tung found his freedom, while those who harmed him have lost theirs.

As time goes by, the pain of his past has washed away into distant memory. Tung is a young man now, leading a happy life that he has defined for himself: he has not let those terrible years on the streets dictate what his future will be like.

And earlier this month, Tung reached a beautiful new milestone in life. He is now a father.

As he held his son for the first time, Tung’s eyes shone with a brightness that has been missing since he was a child himself. In becoming a parent, Tung dreams of giving his boy a life that’s safe and loving and free from all the hardships that he has known.

The cycle of pain does not have to continue. Tung has broken it, and in his son’s new life, Tung has a chance to make the world a better place.

Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation rescues kids in crisis and walks beside them as they heal. Please donate to this important work if you can.

Almost impossible

Phuong’s escape from slavery seemed almost impossible. Desperate to get home to a daughter she had last seen as a baby, she was determined to find a way.

Every call for help to Blue Dragon is urgent. Phuong’s was especially so.

Phuong disappeared 3 years ago. She was offered a chance to work in a restaurant in another town, and followed someone she thought was a friend.

At the time, Phuong felt lucky. As a child, a terrible motorbike accident severed one of her legs, leaving her with a permanent disability. She doubted whether she could ever find a steady job and lead an independent life.

Phuong did all she could to turn her life around. At great expense she had a prosthetic leg fitted and worked hard to be mobile again. But nobody would employ her.

The offer from her friend was the best news she’d had in years, coming shortly after she had given birth to a baby girl. Her fear of how she could afford to raise her child led her to take the job offer immediately.

It’s a common and deeply cruel trick of the traffickers: find people who are desperate to improve their lives, and prey on their hope. We see this in virtually every case of trafficking that we encounter.

Phuong’s hope turned to horror and then despair. She was taken to China and sold to a man who wanted a wife so he could have children to carry on the family name.

Through all the hardship of her life, Phuong knows a thing or two about courage. She refused to give up hope. Every day was a new chance to escape.

Three years passed. The terror of being bought and kept as a possession became a daily reality. But Phuong continued looking for a way out.

She took the chance to make a call for help one night when everyone else was sleeping. The message reached Blue Dragon soon after, and we could see that this rescue operation would not be like others we have done.

In most rescues, we rely on the victim to communicate with us through text message on a smart phone. But Phuong is illiterate. We had to talk directly on the phone, knowing that every phone call creates a risk of being overheard and caught.

We also rely on the victim being mobile enough to run, or at least to move quickly, during the escape. Phuong told us clearly that this would be out of the question. Her prosthetic leg is old and poorly fitted; this rescue would need to be taken slowly and gently.

It was as though the trafficker had prepared for a rescue attempt in advance. Phuong was deep inside China, far from the safety of the border. Once Phuong was with us, we would have a long, slow journey ahead.

But this is what Blue Dragon does. We find people in crisis situations – people who may have nothing but the slightest fragment of hope – and we bring that hope to life.

Phuong’s situation looked almost impossible… and anything that’s “almost” impossible is possible. After months of planning we sent a team to find her and get her out. Following two weeks of travel within China, Phuong crossed the border back into Vietnam.

Phuong preparing to cross the border back to Vietnam.

A rescue operation is never the end of the story. Much remains to be done.

Phuong will need years of care and assistance to recover from this ordeal. The traffickers must be caught. Phuong is in quarantine now, and when she is released we will take her home to meet her 3 year old child, who has grown up not knowing anything about her mother.

For Phuong to finally have a good life, she’ll need a new prosthetic leg and some help to learn a trade and start a new job – when she’s ready.

The road ahead is long and winding. But for today, we can celebrate that Phuong is free, and for the first time in a long time has a chance for something better in life.

Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation is working to end human trafficking and slavery. Please donate to this important work if you can.

Glimmer

After 21 years in slavery, Duong is home. How can anyone survive such an experience?

Duong was 17 when she was trafficked from Vietnam to China and sold into slavery.

That was 21 years ago, but she remembers every detail like it was just last week.

Her rescue last month and her return to her home in Nghe An province a few days ago seem almost miraculous. Her family believed that she was long dead; after so many years of absence, they never thought they would see their daughter again.

Duong and her mother, reunited after 21 years in slavery.
Duong and her mother, reunited.

It was a joyful reunion, but Duong’s homecoming was shrouded with sadness. Her parents have divorced. Her younger brother died in an accident. Her grandmother passed away.

So many major milestones and events that she has missed – that she’s known nothing of until now. The home she is returning to is not the home that she was taken from two decades previously.

During 2020, Blue Dragon has seen a marked increase in the rescues and repatriations of women who were trafficked long ago – 10 and 20 years ago, or more.

It bends the mind to imagine that any person could live so long in slavery. How can it be?

While every case is different, there are some similarities that help us understand how Duong could survive so long and still dream of returning home.

On first being trafficked and enslaved, any person will put up a fight – they know it is a fight for their lives. Some will succeed and find a way back to freedom quickly. Others, like Duong, will be beaten and tortured until the hope of escape seems a fantasy.

Many in that situation learn to live with their horrific new reality. If they’ve been sold as a bride, they might have children and raise them, seeing them through school and into adulthood. They might become friendly with their captor and genuinely have moments of happiness as the years go by.

But in every case that Blue Dragon has seen, no matter how much time passes, there remains a glimmer of hope.

The woman or man may adapt and grow familiar with the life they have been sold into. They may appear to enjoy life. But the dream of freedom never dies.

So it was with Duong. After 21 years in slavery, she has lived longer in captivity in China than she has had freedom in Vietnam. There is so much of her story that she has not told yet, and maybe never will.

But she kept that glimmer of hope alive, and today she is in her family home, in her mother’s arms, where she has always wanted to be.

And that’s why the rescue of trafficked people continues to be such urgent and vital work. Right now, there is one more person keeping alive the hope that someone will come to take them home after years in slavery. One more person dreaming that they too will be back with their family.

Let’s not fail them.

Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation is working to end human trafficking and slavery. Please donate to this important work if you can.

A Little Boy Found

Dak traveled the length of Vietnam alone at age 13, with nowhere to go and no plan for the future. An encounter on the streets of Hanoi changed his life.

It was about a year ago that Dak first came to Blue Dragon.

His journey to Hanoi, where he met a social worker on the streets, is one of those incredible stories that could well be made into a film one day.

He had run away from home in the southernmost point of Vietnam, Phu Quoc Island, and over many months made his way to the north. Dak never had a plan or a sense of where he was going; he had nowhere to be and noone to see. So he just travelled.

Whatever money he had in his pocket, he would use to buy a bus ticket. When he could go no further, he would spend time in the strange new town or city, living alone on the streets and surviving by begging or working.

Life on the road might sound romantic, but Dak was only 13 years old. Being alone was hard, and he regularly went hungry.

On the night he met Tinh, a Blue Dragon social worker, at a Hanoi lake, Dak hadn’t eaten in days. He was desperate for a place to lay down and sleep without fear of harassment. The Blue Dragon safe house was an oasis – all the food he could he eat and a soft bed all his own.

For social worker Tinh, the meeting was also a memorable event. Tinh had been working for Blue Dragon at that time for just a few months. The chance to help street kids was his dream job.

Growing up in a remote mountainous region in an ethnic Tay community, Tinh knew hardship. Despite his family’s own poverty, he had been determined to study and get through school, even though that meant leaving home at age 14 to live in boarding houses while he studied.

Putting himself through university to earn a social work degree was another major challenge – but he did it, and when he graduated from his studies and joined Blue Dragon it was precisely so that he could help kids like Dak.

But this was not to be a ‘happy ever after’ story – not yet.

As Dak regained his strength with some rest and good food, he set his mind on hitting the road again. He simply didn’t believe that Blue Dragon, or any person, would really care for him. His life was littered with rejection and hardship; he figured he would be better on his own.

Such is Dak’s personal ethic that he didn’t just leave. He came to tell us he was going. We tried to change his mind, but his decision was made, even though he had no plan and didn’t know what would come next. All we could do was give him some money so that he would have food in his belly for a few days, and let him know he could come back any time.

The next time we saw Dak, everything was different.

Several months had passed. Vietnam was in the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic. A nationwide lockdown was imminent. Dak was back on the streets of Hanoi, and he was very sick.

The hospital diagnosed him with Influenza A, but for a few worrying hours we feared he might have coronavirus. He was weak and thin, coughing badly and struggling for breath.

Dak was glad to be found again, and as Blue Dragon social workers took turns to sit by his bedside in the hospital, holding his hand and wiping the sweat from his face, he knew that he had found his family.

Since that day, Dak has been with Blue Dragon. He’ll be turning 15 soon and he’s gone back to school to pick up where he left off, in Grade 6.

During the week, he remembered that it was a year since he first met Tinh. So Dak asked a special favour.

He wanted to go with Tinh back to the lake in the centre of town, to the very spot where they first met, to take a photo marking the moment that changed his life.

Tinh (in black) and Dak at the exact spot where they first met a year ago.

Dak’s story is far from over. There will be days when he faces new difficulties, and days he will experience great joy.

But come what may, he knows he’ll never be lost again. Wherever he ends up, he’ll always know that he has a place where he belongs.

Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation rescues kids in crisis. Right now we are asking for donations that will feed hungry children just like Dak. If you can, please donate as part of your Christmas celebrations.

Being kids

The Blue Dragon kids, along with much of Vietnam and the world, have been through some especially difficult times of late. So this weekend, we took the opportunity to have some fun.

In case you missed it, this weekend was Halloween.

It might seem an unlikely celebration for Vietnam, but in cities and towns across the country, people were dressing up and decorating their homes and their shops with all the familiar ‘spooky’ imagery.

The past month has been a difficult few weeks in a terrible year. The central provinces of Vietnam have been hit by storm after storm, causing floods and landslides and damage to tens of thousands of homes.

And it’s not over yet. One more storm is expected to hit on Wednesday. Reports are calling it “the world’s strongest storm so far this year.

Blue Dragon’s work is always about resolving crisis. This year, coronavirus and the floods have added to the complexity of life for people who are already in crisis, already struggling, already trying to cope with abuse and exploitation.

So when Halloween came onto the horizon, we knew what we had to do.

Throw a party.

In the end, for all the crisis and hardship, kids have to be kids. Fun and play shouldn’t be luxuries for children; they are essentials.

And the Blue Dragon kids know how to have a party. They painted a huge banner, organized a talent competition – “Blue Dragon’s Next Top Zombie” – and spent the whole afternoon dressing up and painting their faces.

We’re all still mourning the loss of My, one of our young women who died in an accident just over a week ago. We’re doing all we can to get aid to flood victims, and help families repair their homes before the next storm hits. And our work of rescuing victims of trafficking and finding homeless children continues.

But for a few glorious hours, the girls and boys at the Blue Dragon centre could put all their woes aside and just be kids, having silly, playful fun.

Sometimes, we all need to do exactly that.

Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation rescues kids in crisis.

Sorrow

It’s been an especially difficult week in Vietnam, and for Blue Dragon.

The past week has been filled with sorrow; both for Vietnam, and for the Blue Dragon family.

Flooding

Floods across the central provinces of the country have made headlines around the world. This is a part of Vietnam that experiences floods every year, and expects bad weather, but rarely to this extent or severity.

Storm after storm has hit, and areas that very rarely see floods have been under water for days.

By now most flood waters have receded, but rain has returned over the weekend and new storms are forecast.

Blue Dragon has been out delivering food aid in Hue province, a part of the country where we’ve been working since 2005. Our long-term focus in Hue has been to end the trafficking of children into sweatshops; and since we achieved that, we have continued working to build up the resilience of families and communities so that the traffickers will never return.

These floods threaten that resilience simply because families who were already poor have been so badly impacted. But our team on the ground has been going house to house, village to village, making sure people have all they need to survive and assessing what help they will need next.

A tragic loss

While this has been happening, the Blue Dragon family in Hanoi suffered a very personal loss. Early on Wednesday morning, one of our beautiful young women died in a motorbike accident.

We’ve known My (pronounced “Me”) since she was 10 years old, back in 2010. Her whole family, including her mother, brother and sister, worked on the streets of the city, selling trinkets and chewing gum to tourists. My and her siblings had a terribly hard childhood, growing up in a slum area where many people were involved with crimes and drugs, or struggling with their own demons, but the children found a way to rise above.

For My, hip hop was the lifeline. She found a connection to Blue Dragon through our hip hop crew and on the stage developed a confidence and sense of belonging that she had never known. The little girl who had zero self esteem and refused to believe in herself grew into a wonderful, strong young woman who cared deeply for her family and community, and could stand up for herself when she needed to. She even taught dance to new kids who arrived at the Blue Dragon centre.

My on a camping trip with Blue Dragon

My studied all she could at Blue Dragon: from basic barista skills to a “Junior Social Worker” course so she could care more for her community. Later, she studied in an international hospitality program and was as proud as can be the day she graduated. She could see her own ability and value, and when she was offered a job in one of Hanoi’s exclusive 5-star hotels, she felt on top of the world.

COVID ended that, and even though she lost her job she still found work in local restaurants to keep herself going. Most of her income went to support her family.

My has a 2 year-old son, Bo, who will grow up with scant memory of the mother who loved him so much. The funeral on Thursday was packed with young people from Blue Dragon and the broader community, all in shock and mourning. Her younger brother bravely led the funeral procession; he’s barely 15 himself but already so responsible and with such a burden on his shoulders.

My’s loss has hurt so many, including the staff and children of Blue Dragon who saw her as their sister. We will always remember her.

Reunion

Against this backdrop of sorrow and loss, Blue Dragon’s work of protecting street children and rescuing victims of human trafficking has continued – because it must.

I want to share just one photo of a reunion that took place during the week.

Dao grew up in an ethnic minority community in the mountains of northern Vietnam. As a young mother living in deep poverty, and not speaking a word of Kinh (the mainstream Vietnamese language), she was an easy target for human traffickers.

Dao was taken to China, sold as a bride against her will, and held there for 11 years.

After police uncovered her case last month, she was brought back to Vietnam and taken to mandatory quarantine. On release, Blue Dragon picked her up from the centre and took her back to her family, who have lost 11 years of their lives believing that Dao was dead. Her own husband has remarried, thinking that his wife was gone forever.

Dao and her father, reunited after 11 years apart

Even in this reunion, there is deep sorrow.

But there is always hope. Through the floods, through My’s death, through the pain of Dao’s experience in slavery, we still must go on believing that what we do in this world matters. That we can make a difference.

As dark as the days may get, we must believe that there is a light ahead, if only we keep going.

Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation rescues kids in crisis.

An everyday hero

The life of Van Ta, Blue Dragon’s extraordinary lawyer who rescues people from slavery, has been depicted in this short animation.

In coming weeks, Blue Dragon will reach the milestone of 1,000 people rescued from slavery.

Many people wonder exactly how we conduct these rescues. While we have to be careful about revealing operational information that might put our staff or others in danger, there are a few things we can say.

Blue Dragon’s approach is non-confrontational. We don’t fight. We also don’t negotiate or pay traffickers off. Instead, we help people escape and flee to safety.

So how do we do that? Our approach, and the implementation of every rescue, is guided by one man: Blue Dragon’s chief lawyer, Van Ta.

Van started with Blue Dragon as a volunteer while he was still in law school. Today he not only leads our rescue work: he also represents victims of trafficking in court and spearheads our legal reform projects, which create a national impact for our protection and advocacy work.

Van is a hero. But he’s also something else: an ordinary human being.

Thomson Reuters Foundation has created an animated film about Van, to share his life and work with a behind-the-scenes look into what drives him and keeps him going.

Take a few minutes to look behind the curtain at the man who has rescued almost 1,000 people from slavery.

Be inspired, but don’t forget: Van is just one person.

We can’t all go out rescuing people like Van does, but each of us can find our own way to make our world better. Whether that’s in our own street, our own school, our own community, or across the planet, we all have a part to play.

We all can be an everyday hero.

Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation is working toward the end of human trafficking.

Grenade

As a single young woman, Ha Le’s pregnancy was unexpected. Desperate to improve her situation, she fell prey to a human trafficker.

As she was nearing the border, Ha Le started getting nervous.

She was inside the van with the others: 5 more women from her province who, like her, had agreed to make the trip north to China.

Ha Le is heavily pregnant. The baby’s father disappeared from the scene the moment Ha Le told him she was expecting, and every day since then she went to work in the fields wondering how she would survive.

How could she work when the baby came? What would she tell her parents – and what would they say? Would she be the subject of neighborhood gossip and be shunned forever? What sort of life would her child have?

It was almost too good to be true when she was contacted by a man she had met some years ago at the market where she had been working. He knew she was in trouble, and had a brilliant idea to help her out. A win-win.

The man knew of childless couples in China who were desperate to adopt. And to top it off, they had plenty of money, so were happy to give some cash to Ha Le as a show of their sincerity and as a sign of the prosperous life her baby would grow into.

It was all perfectly legal, he assured her. But still, he recommended she keep it a secret – in case anyone was jealous of her good fortune.

Of course, it was all a ploy. The man was a trafficker, and was making the same offer to women around the province.

When Ha Le first climbed into the van to set out on the journey, she knew something was odd when three other passengers were also visibly pregnant. The remaining two young women were not; their destiny, it appears, was to be sold and impregnated.

In reality, if Ha Le received any money at all it would be a pittance compared to the vast sum that the trafficker and his ring were taking. This was their trick: convincing Vietnamese women that a loving, prosperous couple in China were in want of a child and could guarantee a wonderful life, in contrast to the poverty and hardship of the birth mother.

Once across the border, the situation is rarely as promised. The buyer may be a single man, unable to marry because of his low status or a disability, but who wants an heir. Or maybe a family buys the child, wanting to raise a worker and servant. Those with slightly more money might pay to impregnate a woman himself, so that he has a biological child, or force her into artificial insemination.

It’s a cold, miserable trade in human lives.

The coronavirus pandemic has been like a grenade thrown into the fight against human trafficking. An already-complex situation has been blasted into chaos.

During the past 9 months, Blue Dragon has seen a sharp rise in cases like Ha Le’s – women who agree to go China, believing they are within the law and even doing the right thing for their unborn child, but who have been deceived and manipulated.

We’ve seen a spike in cases of teenage girls, typically aged 14 to 16, needing to support their families so setting off in search of a job and instead being forced into sex work.

There has even been an increase in Cambodian girls and women being trafficked through Vietnam and into China.

The types and extent of trafficking cases have become completely unpredictable. Traffickers are trying new tricks and taking new routes. What we’ve seen in the past 15 years is no predictor of what we will see tomorrow.

But: the situation is not hopeless.

Ha Le was rescued this weekend before her van reached the border with China. Working with police from her home province and the border province, Blue Dragon was able to get help to the women in time. They are now safe, the trafficker has been arrested, and a long, complex legal investigation will follow.

The traffickers may be changing the way they work, but we can too. And we’re seeing increased efforts both within Vietnam and China to find and repatriate women and girls who are being held in slavery.

Ha Le faces difficult days ahead. Blue Dragon will do what we can to see her through but the journey will not be easy.

And whatever grenade goes off next – whatever change in tactic, or new victim profile the traffickers decide to target – we must be ready.

Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation is working toward the end of human trafficking.

The little boy who grew up

He was tiny, hungry, and working on the street to survive. Today, Minh is an accomplished young man, but there’s one more thing he wants to do.

Minh was 13 and collecting scrap on the streets of Hanoi when we met him.

It was at Dong Xuan market, a city landmark, where a Blue Dragon volunteer saw Minh with a bag of scrap metal and invited him for a bowl of noodles. Minh was ravenously hungry, and he still remembers how good those noodles tasted.

Seventeen years on, that volunteer is now our Chief Lawyer, and Minh is volunteering for Blue Dragon.

Back when we met Minh, his life was hard. He lived with his mother and sister by the Red River and worked on the streets just so the family could get by. The first time he came to play football with the Blue Dragon soccer team, he was the smallest child there.

Football has always been important in our work. Every Sunday morning since we started in 2003, dozens of kids come to don the jersey and spend an hour on the pitch having what is, for many, the best hour of their week. We play on Tuesday and Friday nights as well – there’s so much demand.

Minh was one of those kids who turned up every week. As we got to know him and his family, he opened up about his life and his dreams for the future.

We helped Minh go back to school and assisted his sister to apply for a vocational training course. Week by week we could see their lives improving.

Minh (in the green shirt) at a drumming circle in 2004.

We could also see Minh growing. One of the small joys of our work is watching the children become young men and women, finding their place in the world and making their mark.

Minh graduated from high school and with a Blue Dragon scholarship went on to university. He’s now a well spoken, knowledgeable tour guide who loves introducing international visitors to his country. They have no idea that he was once a hungry street kid barely making it from day to day.

Minh as a tour guide.

But now, of course, Minh is one of the millions who have lost their job because of COVID-19. There are simply no tourists, and there won’t be for some time.

Minh and his wife and child are OK; they have savings and still do some small business from their home. They know how to get through difficult times.

Now that he has time on his hands, Minh came back to the Blue Dragon centre with a request. He wasn’t asking for help – he was asking to help.

He explained that he’s always wanted to volunteer, and reminisced about how much it meant to him as a boy to have someone offer a meal, invite him to play football, and help his whole family – in return for nothing but a wish that he would be OK.

So now it’s Minh’s turn to give back. He has started coming once again to the Sunday football field, but now as a volunteer rather than as a player. And he’s talking to the social workers about holding classes for teens at the drop-in centre to share about his experiences as university student and a tour guide.

Minh has much to offer. He’s grown so much – in size and stature. But he’s still the same wonderful person he’s always been. As a child he just wanted to help his mother makes ends meet, and now he wants to help other boys and girls who are doing it tough.

Our world needs more people like Minh. And as a volunteer, he’s certain to inspire more young people to keep dreaming of better days to come.

Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation rescues kids in crisis. Your support means that young people like Minh have a chance at an amazing life.

Life after

Trafficked at age 13 and enslaved for 5 years, Anh’s rescue led to the discovery that she was pregnant with twins. Today, just months after her return home, she is taking brave steps to rebuild her life.

When Anh was rescued from slavery in June, she returned to Vietnam hoping to start life over.

Trafficked at age 13, she was held captive in a forced marriage in Inner Mongolia for 5 years. Her rescue was complex and dangerous, and Blue Dragon brought her home to a deeply emotional reunion with her mother in southern Vietnam.

But there was something that nobody, even Anh, knew: she was 8 months pregnant. This was only revealed in a medical checkup, and shortly after returning home Anh delivered twins- a boy and a girl. They were premature, but otherwise healthy. More about the story of Anh’s rescue and reunion can be found in my earlier post, A Shocking Revelation.

Not yet 3 months since their birth, Anh has grown accustomed to being a mother. The terrible shock that she first experienced in learning of her pregnancy has given way to pride and love of her beautiful babies.

But life remains difficult. Her house is in very poor condition; she and her mother have no savings and of course no job; and Anh is adjusting to being home after 5 years of living in terror in another country, while her curious community chats and gossips at the oddness of her situation.

Every survivor of trafficking faces their own unique challenges in going home – or “reintegration” as the NGO jargon coldly calls it. But one experience commonly shared is a sense of no longer fitting in; of having been through something terrible that nobody else can understand. It adds to their isolation and feelings of rejection.

Blue Dragon has been staying in close contact with Anh since her return home, and we’re working with her on how to cope with all the many difficulties she’s facing. Our psychologists speak on the phone with her daily, and the twins see a doctor regularly to check on their progress.

Last week, Anh took a new step in her recovery by starting to work and earn her own money.

Her sister bought a cart that can sit by the side of the road, and Blue Dragon provided money for them to buy supplies to get started making drinks and snacks to sell.

The sisters share the business, so Anh can work when she wants and know that she’s taking back control of her own life. Her mother is only too happy to look after the twins while she’s working, but in fact the stall is right outside their house so she’s never far away.

Apart from giving her an income, the business is already proving to have another benefit for Anh’s life. One of her great fears since going home has been how to connect with other people; after all, the last time she was at home she was a child herself.

Now she’s finding that the stall gives her a connection to the community. People stop and chat without any awkwardness or judgement; Anh’s side-of-the-road business is just like any other that can be found throughout Vietnam. And Anh is enjoying the casual conversations, which let her mind drift away from thinking about her difficulties and the trauma she has suffered.

For Anh, life after trafficking will never be normal. There will always be scars, and all that has happened will remain as her history, her memory.

But that doesn’t mean that her life has to be hopeless. With love and care, and the resources to start a new life, Anh has reason to believe that there are better days ahead.

Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation rescues kids in crisis. Please consider donating to rescue and care for young people like Anh.