There’s just a little sadness at the Blue Dragon centre today.
For the past 10 weeks, we’ve had the joy of a little girl named Chau toddling through our building. She took her first steps with us; she ate her first solids here in our office. I mentioned Chau on my blog a couple of weeks ago; and today she and her mother have returned to their village to be reunited with their extended family.
Chau was 12 months old when her mother, a 19 year old woman named Hien, called us for help from China. In the early days of her pregnancy, Hien was trafficked from central Vietnam and sold as a bride deep inside China; she found herself living with a mentally unstable man in a small town surrounded by a forest.
Unable to speak any Chinese language, with no money and no idea where she was, Hien was terrified and couldn’t see a way to escape. When she gave birth just 8 months later to baby Chau, her ‘husband’ didn’t quite realise the baby wasn’t his; but as time went by, he slowly worked it out.
With the realisation that Chau was not his child, the husband started becoming erratic and violent. Hien knew there was a very real danger that he would want to get rid of her little girl – and she lived in fear to think of what he might do.
Desperate to keep her baby safe, Hien found a way to secretly use her husband’s phone and get a message back to Vietnam.
When we first heard of this case, we knew it would be difficult; Hien had traveled for many days to get to the town where she was now living, and she didn’t know exactly where she was.
Adding to the complexity of this was that the town was remote and tiny. Strangers coming through would be noticed. It would be almost impossible for the rescue team to work anonymously.
Over some weeks we pieced the puzzle together and found Hien and Chau’s location. Getting there, and getting them out before anybody noticed, remained a huge challenge.
We had a lucky break when Hien learned that a local festival was about to pass through town. There would be activity, and strangers, and lots of noise. It was time for us to get a plan together and bring Hien home.
The rescue of Hien and Chau took several days. Our team had more difficulty locating them than we expected. Then little Chau fell ill with a fever and needed some time to recover. All together, we had a very tense week until mother and daughter were finally back to Vietnam.
Since then, Chau and Hien have been a part of the Blue Dragon family. Nothing quite stops an office of industrious people like having a baby around! Every time she wandered into our work areas, my team of lawyers, social workers, and managers would pretty much drop everything and shower her with love. Me included!
The kids adored her, too. Children at our centre are here because they’ve experienced some kind of damage; they’ve all been through trauma. So they have a natural affinity to an infant who has also suffered, and their desire to protect and care for Chau was deeply touching.
Normally we help trafficked people get home as quickly as possible. Chau and her mother spent more than 2 months in our care because the traffickers, both Chinese and Vietnamese, went into hiding and couldn’t be found. One has now been arrested, and the others have evidently fled the country. Finally, this little family is safe to go home.
I know we should be much happier than we are. The return home of Hien and Chau is a wonderful, almost miraculous, outcome. Trapped deep inside China, Hien never thought she could find a way out; and her daughter’s safety was so tenuous. There was a time when all seemed hopeless.
Going home and having this chance to start over is a beautiful end to the story. I know they’ll be well; even though they’ve returned to their own village far from Hanoi, they still have all of at Blue Dragon looking over them and supporting them in whatever they need.
And yet, somehow it’s impossible to not feel just a little sad, knowing we may not see Hien and Chau again for a little while.