"Just forget it"
"Mother, you've told me that it's a bad thing, to forget it...but why do you keep asking me to repeat the story so many times?" Xiu Xiu tiredly complained. She was a small and shy girl, and it was her forth time retelling her story to a police officer. She was confused. Her mother would tell her 'it was a bad thing that happened...just ignore it and forget it', yet these policemen repeatedly requested her to retell her story over and over, despite it happening a month ago. She had told the exact same story 4 times now.
The Branch to hold onto.
After our training course on the Prevention of Child Sex Abuse, we gathered our bags and started to head off into the next part of our journey: Child rescue.
This particular case was a strenuous one, and we were absolutely committed to seeing it through. After contacting local government bodies, and insisting on the support from the Buon Me Thuot city council, we found the location of a child and her family in the suburbs just outside the city, on the way to Buon Don. We were actually surprised that everything was working in our favor up to this point. In previous cases, we'd travel the great distances and fail miserably as the family had just left the town, or other circumstances would arise that would prevent us from meeting with them.
Some special classes in the "Prevention of Child Sex Abuse" were organize by OBV for the minor of the E De tribe from highland Dak Lak province. The reports of children from ethnic minority communities being kidnapped or lured with candy and cookies, only to be sexually abused has been a huge concern for the officials and priests in the area. That was enough to encourage OBV members to brave the weather, long distances, strong winds and glaring sun to ensure the classes were a success.
"Lottery tickets! Get your lottery tickets here!" The feeble cries from a little girl battled the sounds of Saigon traffic. She, like many other children, needed to sell lottery tickets after school to help support her family. She stood under the glaring sun, her voice piecing our hearts.
She was a member of the OBV family, but had since returned to her family 3 years ago. She was now a 12 year old girl. Grown up and more mature. As soon as she saw us, a big smile lit up her face and she ran to welcome us in. "As soon as I heard your voice on the telephone, I knew it was you!" she told us. "This is my uncle Nam...he picks me up to go to school. Do Mother Ngoc and the sisters miss me?!" She spoke a million miles a minute, but it was heart warming to see her genuinely happy.
It was already after 2pm when she came home, a little girl exhausted as she hadn't eaten all day, and had been moved from one office to another, one medical exam to the next, repeating her rape story over and over, and being stared at by curious strangers. The Medical staff refused to allow an abortion until they received the full report from the police officers in charge of her case. She had another medical appointment for the following Monday, no doubt it would be yet another insult added to her trauma.
On the second day of our Malaysian trip, we visited a camp for minors, who were victims of human trafficking.
On the highway that led us away from the city centre, at a speed of 100 km/h, it still took us about 90 minutes to arrive to the camp. Looking in from the outside, the camp seemed spacious and peaceful, but even the most serene backdrop could not hide the pain and sorrow that could be seen in the eyes and hearts of the residents that lived there.
After the standard check in procedure, we passed two iron gates, and a small playground. In this group, there were only 3 Vietnamese minors among a group of 25 children of all different ages. These particular 3 were the ones we were here to see.
I've been thinking deeply at the Vietnamese working girls. They were in Malaysia because they had been kidnapped, deceived, or sold into prostitution and treated as sex slaves by their traffickers. I thought about the pain and tribulation they had to endure, with someone controlling their lives.
Maybe committed suicide from the shame they felt.
Some descended into madness, their psych not strong enough to keep them going.
Their eyes staring blankly, no longer trusting towards other humans.
The windows to their hearts firmly closed.
an old article...
Thien Binh Orphanage
On Friday, July 8th, 2010, OBV’s representative, Directors and employees of Cali Broken Rice came to Thien Binh Orphanage in the morning.
Charity activities has been with Cali Broken Rice for a long time with a program called “Enjoy broken rice, spread your charity”. With each cold handkerchief that is used by the customer, Cali Broken Rice will take 2,000 VND into their charity fund and take it to ones who need that through charity trips.
There are about 100 children in Thien Binh Orphanage. They were abandoned and taken to the orphanage by people who saw them on the road. Some were abandoned in front of the orphanage. Some were even abandoned in a visiting trip at the orphanage.
Eyes of innocence
This trip helped the orphanage with an amount of 40 million VND which included 30 million of daily food like rice, sugar, milk, oil, etc, and 10 million of cash to help the kids continue their education.
Cash as gift was given for the kids…
… and other things for daily life at the orphanage.
They played together and the kids received gifts.
Being at Thien Binh Orphanage one day had left in me in thoughts. We all hope that every mother and father will love and raise their children with good responsibility, so there will be no more kids like little ones we met there.
Translated by Le Nhat Lam. The original version in Vietnamese entitled "OBV Tham Gia Hành Trình Thiện Nguyện Cùng Cơm Tấm Cali"
an old article...
After a good sleep of the great first day, we got back energy and started the second day in good manner. Binh Dai River also seemed to be nicer than tomorrow. That helped us feel safer. (Honestly, we were very nervous yesterday. We were worried about our learners, our new method, and the most serious problem: our safety when passing the river.)
At 8:00 A.M., all the learners gathered at the classroom. Therefore, the lesson began in good attention from everyone. There was one thing new today. That was we had got a microphone. Although our class was small, our specialists got to be rather tired after trying their best to teach for over 30 people. So the microphone really helped us.
Specialist Pham Sy started the lesson
Specialist Pham Sy started the lesson by sharing with our farmers the skills to protect their children from usual accidents in daily life such as fire or drowning. Lots of photos were put out and questions were asked to get answer from the parents. Their answers helped the speaker know what our parents have known and what they haven’t known. So the speakers would know what to share more, especially about the risks all around their life. What made our learners excited in the questions – answer part was that everyone who participated would get a small candy as a gift. This gift was simple but helped our learners feel free and happy to join in.
Joining activities with specialist Pham Thi Thuy.
According to Ms. Thuy, the more risky ones were invisible. Those risks are in behaviors of the kids’ loved ones. Those behaviors would have a strong impact on children’s psychology and growth. Negative impact can lead children to hurting themselves or suicide. Therefore, parents’ responsibility is very important.
There was also a topic that was most concerned. That was how to protect our kids from being abused. Specialist Pham Sy divided our learners into 3 groups to make them discuss about some problems: sex abuse risk, its consequences, how to protect kids from that. The representative of Bridge to Happiness Center also talked with the farmers about their program which is also OBV’s program to help the kids who were abused to recover. Mr. Pham Thi Thuy also taught the learners how to know if their kids were abused.
The learners were discussing.
Ms. Linh (program coordinator of Bridge to Happiness Center) was talking about her center’s information with the learners.
Early in the afternoon, after a warm up activity, specialist Pham Sy discussed about videos of conflicts happening in schools. This discussion gained curiosity as well as surprise from our farmer learners. He gave the audience practical examples to help them discuss together about how to solve each problem. He emphasized the duty of ones who help everyone get back together; what characteristics they should have and how important they are. He also emphasized that each parent should become a person who helps others get back together whenever conflicts happen.
The last day was also the day when there were more time for the audience to ask questions about what were discussed in two days. Lots of questions were asked. They were about how to educate kids, how to build good relationship between husband and wife – this is a good base for a happy family. Every question was answered with a realistic view from our specialists.
Our specialists were answering the questions.
At the end of the day, we had the audience do a survey to receive feedbacks from them. The survey showed good feedbacks and desire to have more helpful training course like that.
We left there in twilight. Cua Dai River was peaceful in the morning but at that time, it made us worried when lots grey clouds were coming. Our boat had no roofs and the little rain went ker-plop. That made us worried about a storm coming. But fortunately, it began to rain heavily when we had just got to the land. So we felt safer. Everyone quickly got back to the hotel to rest and to have a meeting for feedbacks for the next training course in a further area, with an audience of farmers who are more innocent. The method used for this next course must be changed to meet the audience’s needs.
July 14, 2011
Translated by Le Nhat Lam. The original version in Vietnamese entitled "Nhật Ký 'Tập Huấn Làm Cha Mẹ' - Ngày Thứ 2"
an old article...
We departed at 6:15 A.M. After breakfast, we got on a boat to pass Tien Giang river to go to Tan Thanh, Tien Giang. It was silent and the air was fresh there in that water land in the morning. After going by boat for 15 minutes and 10 more minutes going by bike with the speed of 60 kilometers per hour, we reached Tan Thanh Primary School.
We took a boat in Binh Dai, Ben Tre to go to Tan Thanh, Tien Giang.
Our specialist Pham Thi Thuy was very nervous that we would be late. She wanted to be there 30 minutes before the lesson began because this 30 minutes was the important time to get to know the learners. We were so lucky to get there on time. It meant we got there 30 minutes before the lesson starting.
an old article...
Everyone focused on topics that need to be discussed.
We arrived in Binh Dai, Ben Tre province at 20:30 in a home that was said to be the best one and the “safest” one in both literal and figurative meaning. To get the best preparation, we gathered together at 21:00 at one of our members’ room, and in that room of the “safest” place, the bed became the meeting table.
an old article...
Her mom and her at OBV house
After the first home visit, and many phone calls, words of encouragement and job recommendations in the city for a mother to be closer to her daughter, the family remain stubborn as a rock. We had tried every thing, every way.... But we decided to return to this family, since we still had one ray of hope, Mr. T from a volunteer group.
Back at the family house, we continued to try and persuade them, while listening to them share their concerns with us. The grandparents didn't want the young girl leaving for the big city as they would miss her. Her uncle blamed the mother for not being responsible for caring for her and leaving her with strangers. They were all afraid rumours of them giving their child away to an orphanage might start. Patiently, Mr. T explained all the benefits if she could come live with One Body Village, and compared the education offered in the big city of Saigon compared to what was available in the quiet town of Long An. She definitely would be able to have proper education and a better living environment.
The grandparents, however, remained unshakable. The mother was very eager to have her daughter move to the big city, but at the same time, she only wished for her parents to agree and approve of the decision. The grandfather sat quietly, deep in thought as the first drops of rain started to fall from the grey sky. Finally, he allowed the mother of the little girl to decide for her future. We returned to the city in the middle of a heavy tropical storm. The rain was much heavier and followed us all the way home. The raining water flowed strong, yet couldn't flush away our worries for the future of the little girl.
The mother called me the following morning. "I don't think my daughter will move to the city. Please forgive me. My family has decided not to let her go." I bitterly remained quiet.
But she called back a short while later, and asked me whether it was too late to change her mind. Of course it was never too late, it would be our pleasure to have this little girl join us!
We welcomed her and her little girls at our office and gave them a tour of the school and our home. She repeatedly told us her life story, her failures. She hoped for her daughter to be given a good education, a brighter future. Time would prove this.
It continued to rain, from early morning through til sunset. After having lunch at the office, we made the trek to our home, to prepare a space for the newest member. We split into 2 groups: one would head to school and register her as a new student, while the other group would take mother and daughter shopping for items needed at home.
All kids love to buy things, so I asked "what did you buy at the supermarket?" upon their return.
"I didn't buy anything, just looking," she replied.
Even though all kids love candy, cookies, toys...the mother kept reminder her daughter in a low voice "you must spend your money reasonably. Never ask for anything. Mrs L. here is purchasing a lot of items for you to use at the house. She's spent a lot of money". Listening to the conversation, I pretended not to hear, and sat silently watching her reaction. Her eyes greedily looked at all the toys and candy, yet she demonstrated a great sense of self control. Before leaving, i bought 2 colourful covers for her notebooks, and a small doll made of clay to be used as a paper weight, and gave them to her...
First day of school
It was her first day of afternoon classes, and her first time ever learning a foreign language.
"How was school? Is it fun?" I asked
Yeah, a lot of fun
"Do you understand what your teacher said in the foreign language?"
No! she laughed
"Did you make any new friends?"
Yes, we bought stuff and played with them
"Well, it takes time to make lots of friends"
Her first day of school
I checked her exercise book for her foreign languages class (English), where she had remembered one single thing: Good morning.
'You'll have to try really hard when learning a foreign language," I told her
She's been with us for two days now.
I pray for a bright future for her.
Translated by Jacqueline Huynh and Mr. Phung. The original version in Vietnamese entitled "Long An - Hành Trình Không Còn Buồn"
an old article...
It was a beautiful Sunday morning when I met her and her mother, Mrs. V. for the first time. The bright weather couldn't hide the shyness in the eyes of this littler girl. Mrs. V, with tears in her eyes, looked downwards as she started to tell their story....
She had run into bad luck with her first marriage, her husband leaving her when she fell pregnant. But she persevered, and clenching her teeth, she gave birth to a daughter, and raised her as best she could. Her second marriage was to a motorcycle taxi driver only a few years ago (the motorcycle taxi is a common means of transportation in Vietnam, where a driver rides a motorcycle instead of a car to provide transportation for a customer. "Xe om" in Vietnamese). And thus, the tragedy began...