Phuong had to pretend that she was sleeping.
Every second was more terrifying than the last. She had a chance to call for help, but everything depended on the family being asleep. She had to act in complete secrecy.
The risk of being caught was high. The consequences could be deadly. But after three years in slavery, Phuong was desperate.
She had been trafficked from her home in southern Vietnam and sold as a bride to a man in China. Back home, she had a child. She lived in extreme poverty and had never been able to find a steady job because she was illiterate and physically disabled. A trafficker took advantage of these multiple vulnerabilities and tricked her.
Phuong had thought she was going to find a job. Instead she became a slave. And every moment of her 3 years was consumed with the question: How could she get back home?
That night, when the house was in complete silence, Phuong slipped out of the bedroom and made a frantic, whispered phone call. It was her first contact with her family since she had been taken.
Blue Dragon received the call from her family the next day, and within a week we had set in motion an operation to rescue Phuong and bring her home.
Every week, and sometimes every day, we receive similar calls for help. These are typically from the families of girls and women, and sometimes boys and men, who are trapped in slavery. They are people who were tricked and manipulated; made to think they were going to a good job or traveling with a trusted friend.
In every case, they are desperate.
And so Blue Dragon conducts rescue operations to bring them home. So far we’ve brought over 1,000 people home from slavery.
However, in some circles “rescue” is a dirty word.
It implies bravado and danger. It reeks of a “savior mentality”. And sometimes, it’s just plain confusing. Various people and organisations use the word “rescue” to describe many different activities: providing scholarships to vulnerable girls, meeting and counselling homeless people, or even distributing emergency food supplies.
Because of this, the word “rescue” has earned a bad reputation.
But for Blue Dragon, the act of rescue is a vital humanitarian tool. We are responding to a call for help; finding people who are reaching out and need a hand to escape their situation.
This might require bravery from our staff, but the real hero of the rescue is the survivor. The act of calling for help, as Phuong did late one night last November, requires a courage close to super human. She is safely home now, but the risk she took to make that call could have led to her being beaten, resold, or even killed. (You can read more about her rescue and return home here).
Blue Dragon’s rescues are not raids and we never use violence. We find the safest way possible to get someone out of danger, and back to the safety of their home.
And that’s not the end of the rescue. Even once someone is home, with the violence and danger far behind them, Blue Dragon continues providing support in every way we can: legal representation, psychological counselling, medical treatment, schooling… even help to start a small business or find a job.
This “follow up care” is not as dramatic as the initial rescue, but it’s vital to ensuring that the rescued person is really, truly safe.
Around the world, July is designated as a month of combating human trafficking and slavery. Blue Dragon is proud to be a part of this fight, and we look forward to the day that we can say our work is done. When slavery is finally a relic of the past, we will be glad to retire from this work.
Until then, we must be ready for the next rescue.