It took Lan more than 4 years to find a chance of escape.
In the end, it was the coronavirus that gave her the opportunity to call for help.
Trafficked from Vietnam into Hunan province, she was sold to a violent Chinese man who treated her as an object and beat her mercilessly. But as the world panicked over COVID-19, he became distracted.
With their city in lockdown, the husband saw no reason to be paranoid that Lan might escape. His inattention allowed her to steal a mobile phone, and she called her family back in southern Vietnam.
Word reached Blue Dragon, and we contacted Lan immediately in the knowledge that for now, there’s almost nothing we can do other than plan. Heavily enforced travel restrictions in China have been successful in stopping the spread of the virus, but they have made rescue operations virtually impossible.
In recent weeks we have succeeded in getting several women and a 5 year-old girl back into Vietnam (they’re all in quarantine now), but nobody can get into or out of Hunan.
Tragically, the very reason that Lan could call for help is the same reason she can not get to safety.
There are almost 30 women and girls in this exact situation right now: in contact with us but waiting, waiting. We are on the phone daily, giving assurances and constantly evaluating whether or not someone can be reached.
But Lan can’t. Not yet.
On Wednesday night, Lan was pushed beyond her limits. With rescue still possibly weeks away but with the epidemic starting to pass, her husband again took to beating her.
And she couldn’t take any more.
Lan rang the Blue Dragon rescue team with a request: Please say sorry to my family. Tell them I love them, but death would be better than one more day of this.
She couldn’t wait one more night. Lan had decided to take her own life.
When the phone fell silent, we were left helpless and shocked. COVID-19 is devastating millions across the world. But something about this is an even greater depth of injustice.
The next day, after countless unanswered calls and messages, Lan rang back.
Her voice was weak and low, but recognisable: she is still alive.
We’re all waiting for this hated epidemic to pass. For so many, it means lost jobs, financial ruin, being trapped in a foreign country, or maybe just inconvenience.
For Lan, the passing of COVID-19 is everything. Her life depends on it.
Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation rescues kids in crisis. Right now we are in urgent need of funds. If you can donate any amount, please head to the website and send a gift. It will be sincerely appreciated.