Binh was trafficked when he was just 14.
His mother, raising 2 sons alone since the death of their father, thought that Binh was going to learn a trade. Living in extreme poverty, she couldn’t afford to pay school fees for Binh or his little brother Hien. When some traffickers came along, posing as intermediaries for a training program in Ho Chi Minh City, Binh’s mother believed she’d finally had a lucky break.
Instead, Binh was sold to a garment factory. He became a slave, working on an industrial sewing machine up to 18 hours a day, 7 days per week.
Blue Dragon learned what had happened to Binh, so we went to find him and took him home.
People often wonder what happens to trafficked kids when we take them home. Do they just go back to poverty? Or do they choose to return to the very places we’ve rescued them from?
In fact, by far most of the 544 people we’ve rescued from slavery have returned to study and work, doing all they can to make the most of their new chance at life with a lot of support from our organisation.
And this was the case with Binh. Since going back to his family, Binh has returned to school and gone on more recently to a training program (a real one!) where he’s learning to become a baker. His life has really turned around.
While Binh has been going from strength to strength, his little brother Hien has been having some struggles. Hien is only 13 and has been identified by a sports academy as an up-and-coming athlete. So while Binh has been learning to bake, Hien has been living in a sports centre on a full scholarship, training every day in the sport that he loves: judo.
Even though many boys would dream of having such an opportunity, Hien has been dispirited. He’s missing his home and community, and feeling out of place in the boarding house where he and the other young athletes live. Hien’s studies and training have been poor, and getting worse; his teachers called us to say that if things don’t change, he might soon be sent home.
While Hien’s mother loves him very much, going home would mean returning to poverty and the risk of being targeted by traffickers, just like has big brother once was. And so the impetus for Hien to change has not been from the Blue Dragon staff – but from Binh.
When Binh heard that his brother was in difficulty, he took leave from the bakery to go with a social worker and visit Hien. The two boys spent hours together, talking like long lost friends.
The Blue Dragon team is used to working with kids in all sorts of precarious and vulnerable situations. We have considerable experience in counselling and comforting teenagers who are unhappy or going through some inner turmoil. It’s what we do.
On this day, though, we didn’t need to do anything. What Hien needed was his big brother to listen to him, share his fears and doubts, and offer him comfort. He just needed some brotherly love.
The Blue Dragon staff who saw all of this sent me a message later, amused that her fantastic plan to encourage and support Hien had not been necessary at all. Her words were simple and powerful:
The way Binh shared with Hien was not only about his life experience, but he also cherished his brother… I am touched at their meeting. Especially that Binh, from a trafficked boy to a young man, shows responsibility and care for his family. With their brotherhood, Binh and Hien can cope with any difficulty in their life.
There truly is good in our world.
PS: Earlier this year I shared my thoughts on human trafficking at a TEDx talk in Hanoi.Click here to watch, and be sure to share your own thoughts in the comments.