We thought that Lan was dead.
Her last call to the Blue Dragon Rescue Team late one night in March 2020 delivered a chilling message.
Please say sorry to my family. Tell them I love them, but death would be better than one more day of this.
Lan was 26. She had been trafficked from her home in Vietnam across the border into China when she was just 21 years old.
After five years of being held in slavery, raped and beaten repeatedly by the man who bought her, Lan found a way to call for help.
Her call reached Blue Dragon, but the COVID pandemic had just begun. The border between Vietnam and China was closed; travel within both countries was heavily restricted.
The first time Lan thought she might find freedom, she was denied it.
We tried everything to reach her. And when we knew that we couldn’t, we resorted to comforting her, assuring her we would find a way.
But for people in slavery or situations of domestic violence, lockdowns are more than an inconvenience. Being locked down means being trapped in the same space as your abuser, all the time, with no relief. For Lan, the lockdown exacerbated her already-terrifying situation.
That night, she tried to take her own life. She did not succeed.
Since then, her traffickers watched her more carefully, reducing any chance she might have to call again for help or to attempt an escape.
This week, Blue Dragon reached Lan. More than a year since we thought it was all over, feared we were too late, we found her. She is free.
Lan crossed the border late in the week, back into Vietnam, and is now in quarantine. We don’t know how long she will be there, because a new COVID outbreak has caused havoc across the country, but Lan is finally safe. The worst is surely behind her.
Every call for help demands urgent, immediate attention. COVID has made it so much harder for Blue Dragon to find and rescue people from situations of slavery, but it has also increased our resolve.
Because we can see how much more dangerous life is now for the poorest of the poor; how much more risk is faced by people who are jobless and desperate; how much more violence women and girls are facing when they are locked in with their abusers.
Right now, Blue Dragon is calling for help. We have launched our Rescue Appeal, asking friends near and far to donate so that people like Lan can be found and brought home to safety.
But the money we raise goes beyond rescue. The donations you send are put to use to prevent trafficking by keeping kids in school and helping families stay safe.
And when survivors of trafficking, like Lan, return home, donations mean that they will have counselling, healthcare and education – a chance to start over.
Lan’s rescue and return home seemed impossible this time last year. Now the impossible has happened.
Human trafficking can be defeated. We can do this; we only need to try.
You can make a donation to the Blue Dragon Rescue Appeal at this link. Every dollar you donate will make a powerful difference.