On Friday, Mai and her brother San held each other for the first time in 27 years.
Mai was 21 when she left home in search of work. Her parents and her siblings trusted that she would be safe, knowing that their family survival depended on Mai finding a job. They were desperately poor and could see no other options.
But for Mai’s parents, it was to be the last time that they saw their daughter. Instead of finding the job that she dreamed of, Mai was taken into China and sold as a bride.
Her mother and father both died without knowing what had become of Mai. All that remains of Mai’s family now is her brother, who has lived all these years believing that his sister, too, must surely be dead.
When Mai was found by police and set free from her forced marriage, she returned to Vietnam but did not know how to find her family. Over the years, they had moved from one province to another. After 27 years away, Mai did not know where her home was.
It took Blue Dragon more than a month to track down her surviving brother. On Thursday we travelled to southern Vietnam with Mai, and on Friday we finally brought them back together.
Mai has been a lifetime away, and the joy of being back with her brother was beautiful to see.
Nothing can make up for the years that Mai has lost. She had given up hope of ever returning to Vietnam and for years did not imagine that it was even a possibility. Now, almost suddenly, everything in her world has changed.
When travel restrictions are eased, Mai and her brother will travel to visit the tomb where their parents lie. For now, they have a lifetime to catch up on.