I thought that they could be trusted. They were our customers. Our neighbors. Our friends. Even though I was only 14 years old, they said they had found a job for me. So I went with them to the hotel room. Met the customer. But then the police stormed in. I was so scared and confused—I didn’t know why I was there or what was happening. When I was finally told what these women were trying to do, I was so sad. Everything was a lie.
I carried my fear and disappointment with me as I was placed in Hagar’s care. The staff encouraged me to make friends and to let go of my bad memories. But I isolated myself from everyone. Eventually, I opened up to my counselor. She was patient with me and told me for the first time that I had value. She helped me to realize my talents and all of the good things about me.
At first I was nervous to go to court, but Hagar’s Legal and Protection Unit supported me. They explained why it was important for me to seek justice and now the criminals are in prison.
With my newfound confidence, I am ready to return home to my family. Hagar has committed to supporting me through my university education where I hope to study accounting.
Today, I feel very proud of the woman I’ve become. In front of God, I am a beautiful girl, and I know that He is always there for me.
Thuy’s abuse began the moment she was conceived. Her mother was unmarried and her father was a criminal. She was born unwanted - her very existence brought shame to her family in Vietnam. “As early as I can remember, I was beaten and humiliated.”
Thuy was raised like one of the family’s animals. She ate pig slop. Her clothes were dipped in manure. At 15, she was sexually abused by her cousin. Unable to take it anymore, Thuy ran away. A social worker directed her to Hagar.
When she completed vocational training, Hagar staff helped Thuy find a job at a bakery. She is now a supervisor and trains new employees. She was even nominated as Employee of the Year!
“Things are getting better for me now. Before, I didn’t trust other people because of my past - I feel stronger now. Hagar helped me understand my strengths and weaknesses.”
With her newfound confidence and independence, Thuy wanted to reconcile with her family. By choice, she moved back home. At first, it was like old times, and they abused her emotionally and physically. Twice she considered moving out, but with Hagar’s help, she learned to communicate better.
Now, she feels strong enough to stand on her own and deal with her family problems. Her relationships are improving. She and her father talk over issues.
“I am a grown up now and I can take care of myself, but it does not mean that I don’t want my family.”
At Hagar Vietnam, we work with the toughest cases. Situations are complex, messy, and supremely challenging. But they are rarely hopeless. Here are two quotes filled with hope, one from a client, and one from one of our inspiring staff members. Thanks for your support in making these quotes of hope happen.
"I no longer feel sad. I have hope. Hagar has given me the ability to dream about my life and the future again." Ha, a survivor of extreme domestic violence. She has been on her recovery journey with Hagar for thee past two years.
"I learn every single time I serve a new client, but the biggest lesson learned is always about positive thinking. I celebrate every success beside each client, with each client. Those are the things that make this work exciting." Trang, Hagar Vietnam Department Leader, who has served women from backgounds of abuse and trafficking over the past three years.
Hagar Vietnam was launched over three years ago, in response to a tremendous unmet need in Vietnam. Our country leader, Agnes Lam, reflects on the many things that she has learned. Here are ten of them:
1) Almost all the women and children victims we've encountered come from very broken families.
2) Raising awareness of human trafficking with at-risk victims will not necessarily prevent someone from being trafficked.
3) Many victims of human trafficking attract unhealthy and poisonous romantic relationships.
4) There are many shades of grey when it comes to exploitation.
5) The internet is becoming a sophisticated tool in trafficking young people.
6) Learning disabilities and mental disorders can be a major risk factor leading to violence and human trafficking.
7) Supporting victims is much harder than just providing trauma-counseling and giving someone a job.
8) A client's sense of ownership over the healing process is one of the most important factors determining whether a client will change their lives.
9) The cycle of violence is very real.
10) Trafficking a human being is much easier than people could imagine.
See below for a link to Hagar International's website, to read an expanded list of these 10 things.
There are good days, and there are bad days...when you work in recovery. For 3 years, Agnes Lam has lead our Vietnam office. Even after years of serving traumatized women, some cases still feel overwhelming. This week, a young woman was referred to Hagar Vietnam with an extremely complex background of abuse. Here's a raw glimpse of what it's like to work in the field from Agnes:
"Just when I thought it couldn't get any worse. It did. We've recently been referred a very severe case of a young woman from the countryside.
Cases like this are haunting. For me, it brings up so many questions about humanity and spirituality.
Where do you even start?"
This case illustrates the growing number of severely abused and trafficked women and children who are coming into Hagar's care in Vietnam. Clients are becoming younger and younger. In a county where few services are available, there is great need for Hagar to serve not only more women, but also young adults and children.
Because of your support we've been able to help many women journey towards recovery, healing, wholeness. Thank you.
Read another recent exert from Agnes blog, "10 things I learned about human trafficking."
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