Walking up the hill toward his family home, Van faced a wave of emotions.
After weeks being homeless on the streets of Hanoi, Van longed for the familiarity of home. He finally knew he was safe.
Even more than that, he would soon be with his father and uncle, back with those he loved and who loved him.
But alongside this joy and sense of relief, Van also felt a certain dread.
Like so many young people growing up in poverty, home is not always a happy place for Van. A few weeks ago, I shared the story of how Van came to leave his mountain home and travel alone to the city for work, even though he’s still a child.
Blue Dragon found Van after he’d been robbed and left with nothing, and we accompanied him back to his home to meet his family.
After sharing the post, some awesome people around the world donated to give Van a chance to start over.
We’re working with the family step by step, and have already helped them buy some goats and build a basic pen.
It may seem a little strange: we meet a homeless boy in Hanoi and part of the solution to keep him safe is to buy goats.
In fact, keeping kids and families safe often takes a lot of creativity. Because there’s no single intervention that will help everyone. Instead, we have to understand what each person needs, taking their community context into account, and find out what their own dreams and hopes are.
Van’s family needs goats so they can earn some money – it’s as simple as that.
Now that they have the goats, we’ll arrange for a local veterinarian to teach them to care for the animals. And our next step will be making repairs to the house to make it safe and comfortable. We don’t have enough money to build a whole new house but we can definitely make some significant improvements.
Last week, my colleagues and I spoke in a webinar about this idea of tailoring a package of activities or services toward the specific local needs of a family and a community in order to keep them safe from being trafficked.
We call it “integrated clustering” which sounds rather technical but it’s a simple idea. It’s about putting in place several actions which go hand in hand with each other to protect people from the risk of trafficking. Like fixing someone’s house, sending the kids to school and buying some goats.
And it goes even further: buying the goats alone isn’t enough. The family needs training in how to care for them. In coming months they might need business advice on where to sell the goat milk or the offspring at the best price.
It’s not just one simple ‘fix’ to solve a problem. It’s several actions working together to lift a family, or a community, out of poverty. When we do this, human traffickers don’t stand a chance.
Meeting human needs
There’s a bit more to it, of course. The “integrated cluster” approach may involve arranging rescue operations, or working with law enforcement. For many, psychological care or emergency shelter may be part of the cluster.
Does all of that sounds like “common sense”? Then you’ve understood that this approach is simply addressing basic human needs. And human needs may be basic in one sense, but in another they are complex.
They’re basic in that our needs today are the same needs we were born with. Love, safety, food, belonging.
And they’re complex because they all work together and vary depending on our individual nature and set of circumstances.
Blue Dragon’s “integrated clustering” approach is key to how we are keeping kids and families safe around Vietnam.
For young Van and his family, it means they are now on their way to financial security and having a home that protects their dignity.
Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation is determined to end human trafficking. We operate programs to prevent trafficking; we rescue people who fall victim to it; we support survivors in their recovery; and we work on law reform initiatives to strengthen government systems.