It has been an encouraging first year for Hagar Vietnam. Early stories from Hanoi bring hope. As one example, 18-year old Trang looks back on her devastating past: “I feel more self-confident and strong now. I have the right to decide for myself what I can do and what I want to do. I can live a life without fear.”
Over this past year, Trang and 12 others from backgrounds of domestic violence and trafficking have travelled a complex journey. In August, this first group completes their formal training. Hagar’s enterprise partner, Joma Bakery Café, will employ them. For most, this will be their first-ever experience with safe and dignified work. Still, we know that reintegrating to community can be a vulnerable time. Social workers are working with each woman to determine an individualized plan. Some will be supported in transitional housing. Each will be provided a stipend, to ensure living and childcare costs are adequately covered. Then, Hagar will provide on-going support and follow-up services for up to two years.
A second group of 14 Vietnamese women have already begun their own journeys. In 2010, we anticipate serving over 50 abused and trafficked women. Sex trafficking and violence against women has been a hidden issue in Vietnam. Only recently have these needs begun to be publically addressed.
From Agnes Lam, Hagar Vietnam Country Representative, “These women are amazing. They came in with the typical symptoms of trauma, and now they are glowing. It’s really amazing to see the transformation. And, as a Vietnamese-American, I love doing this work. It is my way of giving back.” We all appreciate the support of Global Giving donors and hope that you will continue to empower abused and trafficked Vietnamese women.
I'm writing from Cambodia where I have been making Hagar site visits for the past two weeks. Regarding our Aftercare project, I have some very encouraging news to share. Over the past nine months, Hagar has developed a leadership program for girls who have survived sex trafficking and rape at alarmingly young ages. A core group of seven girls was elected by their peers. These young girls have been trained in communication skills, leadership. problem solving, and conflict resolution. Now, when disputes arise among the other girls served by Hagar Aftercare, the concerns are first heard by the Child Committee. They are effectively facilitating resolutions in many cases. When a resolution can not be reached, then the concern is carried to Hagar staff.
Even more exciting, these girls have been trained to teach workshops. They have been working with Hagar's Activities Director to design ways to convey lessons on self-esteem, problem-solving, respecting others, etc. They lead a Saturday workshop with the 25 girls in residence every week. Says Sue Hanna, Hagar Cambodia Residential Services Manager, "watching these girls lead lessons they have written themselves can reduce you to tears." We are finding this very encouraging work.
Bill Brower is a Field Program Officer with GlobalGiving who is visiting our projects throughout Southeast Asia. On January 14th he visited Hagar's Aftercare program in Phnom Penh:
An indication of the magnitude of the problem, GlobalGiving has a number of projects dealing with sex-trafficking victims and gender-based violence in Cambodia. In visiting these projects over the past few weeks and listening to the organizations describe how some less effective organizations in the country operate, I began to get a clear view of some things to look for in a good program for girls and young women who have gone through such horrific ordeals. The most important seemed to be a long-term commitment to reintegrating the girls into a more normal life. One could see the temptation to “wrap them up in cotton wool” (as my Scottish friend would say) to ensure they’re never hurt like that again; the staff at Hagar’s Aftercare recovery shelter give comprehensive and personalized care, with an eye each step of the way toward avoiding institutionalization.
The facilities seem like everything a young girl would want: Clean dorms, a nice classroom for the young ones, space to run around, playground equipment and even a little wading pool that they fill up on special occasions. Each girl, along with five of her peers, is assigned to a House Mother, with whom they spend 24 hours everyday to help build up a sense of consistency and trust. Counseling is available and it sounds like some great informal counseling goes on between the girls who can relate to each others' stories.
The girls were at school when I visited, the older girls in the public school, and some of the younger girls just across the street from the center. I didn’t want to distract from their studies, so we just said a quick hello to the younger girls. Twenty-five or so beaming, healthy looking faces greeted me with a very nice welcome. Though it was hard to see them knowing what they’d been through, I was happy to know they were on the road to recovery with Hagar.