This past Jul. 30 marked Vietnam’s first National Anti Human-Trafficking Day. This was aimed at raising awareness about the issue and involving the entire country in the efforts of working towards eliminating human trafficking.
Human trafficking for sexual exploitation and forced labour is a large issue in Vietnam, as many women are removed from their families and home towns, promised jobs abroad and a consistent income for their family, only to be transported away and never heard from again.
It is a hard issue to talk about, not only because of the painful subject matter, but also because the problem at hand is grossly under-reported. This means even though we have the statistic that 4,500 Vietnamese people were trafficked in the past five years, according to Thanh Nien News, we can never know for certain how many lives have been affected.
Home of Hope is a recently established residential recovery centre that offers a safe location close to Ho Chi Minh City for survivors of human trafficking. Founder Marie Watson has lived in Vietnam for six years, and has an international history of involvement in projects improving the lives of women.
“This isn’t a long-term home,” says Marie, “This is the place where women can find themselves after what they’ve been through.”
Marie, who is originally from northern Texas, US, and her husband Joel, have lived in many countries throughout their lives, but were instantly drawn to Vietnam. During their time away from the US, they have found themselves involved in community development projects wherever they go, with Marie’s heart dedicated to helping train and empower women.
“Our whole outlook on life and happiness revolves around people,” says Marie. “There are people who want to help by supporting the doers, and there are the doers who use what we have to help make change.”
Home of Hope is the result of 18 months of hard work by a team of dedicated volunteers who have come together to help get the residence off its feet and ready to welcome trafficking survivors. At the home they offer a variety of courses to assist women in their recovery including: individual and group counselling, English classes, job skills, sewing, sports, healthcare, finances and career guidance for their reintegration back into society.
A key part of Marie’s projects is that they always include the local people, to help keep the efforts truly sustainable, in touch with local culture, and the needs of the people impacted.
“We couldn’t achieve what we do without the support of the community,” she says.
Some similarly focused groups already exist in Vietnam, but Home of Hope is strategically located close to Ho Chi Minh City. The other programmes are operating on the borders with China, Cambodia and in Hanoi.
For the future, Marie says, it is important to educate the community how to identify and prevent being targeted by potential traffickers.
“Many times the families of human trafficking victims not only know the person who takes them away, but also consider it a great opportunity,” says Marie. “They genuinely believe that it will bring respect and money to the family. However, they end up losing someone dear to them.”
There have been cases of women who were lured into prostitution by their own best friends or sisters.
There are many forms of trafficking. Though not complete, some common identifiers of trafficking include:
— Being offered an amazing opportunity that would take them away from their town and family to a far-away country or city, by a stranger or acquaintance.
— Being approached by these people for a position instead of applying, especially if it is outside their current professional field.
— Not having all of the details about the position, or only a very vague understanding about where they are going or the job waiting for them.
— If all expenses are covered for a limited skills position.
— If the person wants to control their passport or other travel documents.
It is also important, Marie says, to stay aware of what is going on under our noses, know when to help, and always have hope.
“We are here,” Marie says, when she makes contact to women who are trapped. “We see you, and we want to help.”
For more information click on hopeunending.org