I’ve never really gotten along with anybody. It all started with my parents who divorced when I was fifteen. At first, I was in conflict with my father. And then with my mother. Although I was intelligent and accomplished, these difficulties at home left me contemplating suicide.
I finally thought I was doing well when I finished my first year of university. But then I was kidnapped and forced to marry the man who smuggled me away from my home to the capital city. Eventually, I escaped but had nowhere to go. Luckily, I found Hagar, participated in one of their vocational training programs and got a job in the kitchen at Joma Bakery Café. I did so well that I became employed by a few foreign families. That’s when I began my relationship with an older man—a Westerner.
Things didn’t work out with him and a few years later I found myself in trouble in Malaysia. I had overstayed the visa I got to work in a Chinese factory. My case manager at Hagar helped me return to Vietnam but then I reentered the country illegally to be with my African boyfriend who I met online.
All was well for the first few months of our relationship. I was pregnant and happy. But then I unexpectedly found myself caught in a drug trafficking ring and was asked by my new family and friends to participate in the trade. When I refused, the father of my child destroyed my belongings and came after me.
Hagar tried to rescue me through a partner organization where I was staying. The staff even went as far as to contact the embassy on my behalf. But I was too caught up in all the brokenness and the pain of my life to receive the help that was being offered. Nevertheless, my original caseworker maintained contact with me. I am now home and am trying to reintegrate with my family.
Sometimes I look at my life and wonder how with so much promise, everything still turned out this way. Why I was brought up in such a destructive environment and why this experience continues to influence my choices? My whole life it has seemed that everyone has just given up on me—has either let me down or despised me. But through it all has Hagar has been there, is there and will continue to be there for me even when I haven’t done the best job of being there for myself.
When girls join our shelter, they do so because they have no place left to turn.
Theavy expresses it well--after her home was broken apart by violence, her father brought her to Thailand. Living on the street, they were caught by immigration officers and returned to Cambodia. Tracking down her mother she found that her other parent was living on the streets too. ‘I felt so lost and so unsafe’ she recalls. An NGO referred her to Hagar; at first she was afraid and found it hard to trust anyone at the shelter.
‘But little by little, I realized that housemothers and counselors really cared for me- especially when I got sick and they stayed with me day and night.’
Despite the healing and love Theavy has experienced, where she wants to be is back with her family. This is Hagar’s desire too; from the moment a girl joins us, our case workers are out first finding and then meeting with the family and community that girl came from, assessing whether it is a safe place for her to return and how we can support that process. We support in different ways – sometimes through helping find or improve housing, sometimes through providing some ideas and training around income earning opportunities – and through counseling not only with the girls but with their families too.
So while we have reached more than 200 girls through our work, the impact is even broader than this; reaching over a thousand direct family members as well as others in the communities we visit and engage with.
Theavy is not back with her family yet, although she is in touch with them. She is studying hard and wants to be really successful in her education. Her dream for the future is exciting and humbling ‘I want to become a teacherand help my parents so that they don’t have to beg on the streets anymore.’ The road home will be a difficult one, but Hagar is committed to walking this road with her. Each time someone is ready to rejoin their family orcommunity it is a deep moment of success for them; so far this year we have celebrated with 8 girls who have taken this step. Please help us to continue walking this long but immensely valuable road by supporting our work on Global giving.
When you supported this Hagar project, you gave new life to Vietnamese women from impossible backgrounds. Women like Diep:
Diep was born into poverty. Like so many others in rural Vietnam, she was essentially destined to a life of hardship and pain. Her family grew rice and because her mother remarried—divorce is unheard of in most Southeast Asian countries—Diep was stigmatized within her community. This shame resulted in her never being allowed to go to school.
When she was still young, Diep moved in with her boyfriend. Her family disapproved of their relationship and refused to let her marry him. Nevertheless, they had two children together but due to a lack of education and job opportunities, could only afford to keep one. Struggling to deal with such impossible decisions, Diep’s boyfriend acquired a taste for alcohol and began to abuse her. She eventually left him but in order to do so also had to leave behind their son.
Unfortunately, Diep’s life only continued to get worse. She was tricked into being trafficked to neighboring China where she became a prisoner in the home of her new “husband”. Throughout the year she lived with him, she was only allowed to leave the house once. Somehow Diep escaped and managed to return to Vietnam and she became connected with Hagar.
“For most of my life I’ve had nothing—no family, no job and no idea how to change my circumstances,” Diep reflected. “But Hagar has given me a second chance.”
Diep is currently working with Hagar staff to set education and career goals that will help her achieve the future she desires. And as she noted, “The life I deserve.”