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.
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.