Lan was just 16 years old when she was trafficked from Vietnam and sold into a forced marriage deep inside China.
Blue Dragon receives calls for help several times a week, and sometimes every day. The young people we’re called to rescue are in all sorts of situations: sometimes caught up in pedophile rings, sometimes trapped in sweatshops, sometimes taken out of the country and sold to brothels or as brides. When the phone rings we just don’t know what the next case will be.
For all we’ve seen and heard over the years, Lan’s case was still something shocking. She had been trafficked and sold in 1999, and held under such tight control that it was only in recent weeks that she could finally get a telephone make a call for help.
Which raises the question: How many people are out there in similar situations, locked in and guarded, with no opportunity to call for help? It’s one of the reasons that nobody can say for sure how many people in our world are victims of human trafficking; there’s just no way of knowing.
Lan is home now, set free by the Blue Dragon Rescue Team, and already we have more calls to respond to, more people finding ways to reach out and cry for help. How can we possibly get to them all?
In recent years, some organisations have declared an intention to eradicate modern day slavery. People talk about ending human trafficking forever. These are bold and noble goals. And again the question has to be asked: How? How might we do this?
On the macro scale, there’s much to be done. Laws to change, policies to create, attitudes to improve.
Then there’s a ‘middle scale’: efforts that communities and societies can take. Boycotting shops that have slavery in the supply chain, for example. Educating people about the issue and strengthening vulnerable target groups to avoid and prevent being trafficked.
We need these interventions, but there’s still something more to be done, and that’s on the individual level. There are untold millions of people in slavery right now, and each one needs to be set free. Some estimates put the number at around 30 million people.
Sometimes in wanting to achieve big things, it’s easy to forget about the individual. And yet, at the end of the day, it’s all about the individual. There is nothing bigger than helping an individual person.
All the awareness raising and policy improvement in the world wouldn’t have helped Lan get home. And slavery can never be abolished as long as she is held captive.
Lan’s freedom is one tiny but critical step toward the end of slavery in our world. There may be 30 million more steps to take, and we can be overwhelmed by that or we can get started right away.
The phone is ringing.