Empower Abused and Trafficked Vietnamese Women

by Hagar USA, which supports the work of Hagar International
Vetted

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.

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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.”

Despite her hardship, LInh already smiles
Despite her hardship, LInh already smiles

Linh was raised in central Vietnam, in a very poor family.  She was forced to work as a child, and she never got to go to school. Abuse by her father continued for years.

At 21, Linh escaped this difficult home life.  She married and had a child.  Things were much better, but then her husband was tragically killed.  Linh was forced to find a way to support herself. Although hesitant, she accepted a job in a textile factory in Russia.  She hoped to make enough money in a short time to support her child for years to come.

It didn't work out that way. In Russia, her passport was taken and she was forced to work in a sweatshop 20 hours a day. She was given little to eat and slept in overcrowded, cold, and dirty conditions with dozens of other Vietnamese people.  Some of them had been there for four years. None had been paid.

Finally the sweatshop was raided and everyone was sent home. Now, Linh is with Hagar Vietnam. She's not whole yet, but we believe she will be. And its our privilege to journey alongside her. When you support this project, you help more women like Linh become whole again.

 Please note:  To protect the identity of our clients, photos do not necessarily represent individuals profiled.

Modern Vietnam is often considered an economic success story.  However, at Hagar we know that things are very different for those on the margins. The overall poverty rate is 12%.  But, for ethnic minorities, rates are 50 to 70%. Experts estimate that within five years, poverty will largely be an issue of ethnicity.

This future is part of Hagar's current reality.  Over half of our newest clients served by this project are from Vietnam's hill tribes.  Few have had access to school. Few have received healthcare.  Most have been trapped in deep poverty and severe abuse.  Through your support, women in extreme need are becoming empowered. They are becoming whole again

Here's a quote from one woman you've helped:

"I have cried out my tears.  I have felt sorry for myself and my children.  What I got from my husband was always violence.  But when I found Hagar, my son and I were rescued.  The doors are gradually opening for a better future.  This is waht I feel in my heart.  This is my second chance."

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Vocational Training with Hagar
Vocational Training with Hagar

Jacqueline Lee is an InTheField Traveler with GlobalGiving who is visiting our partners’ projects throughout Southeast Asia. Her “Postcard” from the visit in Vietnam:

On the morning of April 11, I visited Hagar International’s office in Hanoi, Vietnam and was hosted by Kelly, Program Development Manager, and staff. The day started off with visiting Hagar’s main office and meeting staff. We sat down to discuss the staff’s backgrounds, current work, and challenges.  I learned about the impact of Hagar, the spearheading of Hagar’s case management and social work within the field for future social workers, and goals for Hagar.

I asked the staff to share the most rewarding part of working at Hagar. One said working with the women, and when the survivor shares that it is the first time someone listens to her.  Another said that Hagar is a place people can be and can cultivate themselves - where one can be authentic. Working there makes them feel proud - where each person feels like they are making a difference.  Another staff member said being part of a learning organization. It’s not just about the numbers, but about each individual client.

Next we went to visit Joma Café, where Hagar survivors are able to receive on-the-job training in hospitality, and met some of the empowered women. I met with 2 women – one who had been with Hagar for about 1 year and half and another who was with Hagar for about 10 months.  Let’s say their names are Sara and Mary (to protect their identities).

I asked them both why Joma and hospitality?  Sara said she thought it was popular, easy to get a job and opportunity, and to meet people. Mary said she liked cooking. Before she cooked at the shelter and was good at it. I then asked if they would like to continue at Joma, and Mary said she hoped to work in her hometown to open a small business. Sara said she wanted to stay with Joma to increase experience and English. Finally, I asked if they weren’t with Hagar and Joma where would they be?  Mary said it would have been difficult to find a job because she lacked skill sets.  Sara said before she wasn’t able to learn life skills, vocational training, and not able to be recruited. It would have been way more challenging. Without support like this from Hagar, they don’t know where their future would be.

After, I asked if they had any questions for me, and both shrugged. Then Mary stopped, looked at me and said “I never thought I would have an opportunity like this. I want to thank GlobalGiving.”

Through protection, personal well-being, economic empowerment, and social capital women are able to not only survive trafficking but be empowered in their lives to move forward, create a positive and thriving life, and not be a victim.

Life Skills with Hagar
Life Skills with Hagar

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Organization Information

Hagar USA, which supports the work of Hagar International

Location: Charlotte, NC - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.hagarusa.org
Project Leader:
Catherine Sherrod
Director of Development
Pheonix, AZ United States

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