Well dressed this morning, my heart pounded in my chest as i waited for a bus to go home after a business trip. The Lunar New Year songs could be heard every where through the cold rain showers of Spring. Busloads of passengers rushed to Saigon so they could finish their rounds, picking up passengers who wanted to go home to celebrate New Year in their home town of Buon Me. I looked around but couldn't see the bus I had booked. I started to worry. Would I miss the bus?
I thought back to the joyful trips OBV had recently been on -- or our 'Happy' trip, as named by Miss Hien, a reported from a Women's magazine. But sometimes in life, we do miss a passenger, as so it happened yesterday.
At 6.30am, from our office in District 3, a group of 5 people boarded our minibus of 17 seats and started the long journey to Vinh Long. Along the way, we picked up a columnist for a local newspaper, whose articles featured stories about Life and Law.
We made it to a brick kiln, where we met a little girl of 11 years old, and her grandmother, both crouched in a small room. Her grandfather and father had both been incarcerated. She was one of the lucky ones, who would be picked up to join the OBV family in Saigon.
Dr. Thanh-Tam's annual trip to South East Asia to work with OBV staff and the children
This is a story of a lady, whose 9 year old daughter was raped by her biological father. She herself has a victim of domestic violence so bad that she was now deaf and often confused. She raised her daughter alone. Growing up, she had been a servant for a nice family, and sent her hard earned money to her mother in the countryside. Reaching the age of consent, she lived with a man, but they didn't marry until their daughter was 3 years old. She continued to work as a servant for her husband's family, who treated her poorly.
This summer, beyond the usual activities and picnics, the children had other plans at home.
Some on them, in highschool, started studying their new subjects, while the rest of them reviewed what they had learnt the previous year. OBV'S House Mother created a schedule for them to include learning cross stitch, musical instruments, painting and other handicrafts. They had opportunities to bake a variety of cakes as well as create their own new dishes. All this happened while the skies were dark with rain clouds, and Saigon went under water a few times from the storms.
I had a dream of picking up a girl, H. Uyn, to bring home to our OBV family. Since the day I met her, not a day went by where I didn't think of her. It was like to know her, to help her...it was fate.
It had been a hard day for our group, to make a home visit. After travelling over 100km from the mountainous city of Dak Lak to Ea Kiet, we had to walk for the whole morning, over hills, pass springs and red muddy land, to finally reach the home of a family of 2 victims of a minority group. This part alone, if you could believe it, was the easier part to deal with. The other part was the fact that a foster father had married his daughter. There was also the barrier of cultures and languages, as the community here spoke their own dialect. But we pushed on, refusing to give up and be powerless to help these girls.
A true story of an 8 year old girl being sexually abused by her father. Instead of keeping her innocence, her joy of life, and naivety, her life turned dark and miserable. She no longer trusted anyone, couldn't see the beauty of life any more. "If there are fairies, or Gods...why do they not look upon and protect me?"
She was given a tour of OBV - a charity organisation focused on rescuing and raising children of sexual abuse - so that she could make a decision.
She was a 7 year old child at the time, from a minority village in the West. She lived with her mother in a small wooden hut on a hillside of the mountainous province. It took a long, winding trail carved into the hillside, through a coffee plantation, a jungle and across a small spring to get to her hut. It took her about 45 minutes for her to get to school.
Her path to go to school daily
Finally, we could lie down after a long day working with our partners in the media, as well as arranging to visit two homes. What a long day!
How could I ever comprehend or fathom that this had even happened? That two girls in the same village were raped by their own biological fathers. One girl and her mother were oblivious to the fact until the young child was pregnant. The other girl was 9 years of age, and bravely reported her father since she couldn't summit to being her father's sex slave. Her accusation shocked the entire village. She was forced to eventually drop out of school, humiliated, miserable and living a painful life in another village far away from the place which haunts her. She lives with her uncle, awaiting the trial of her father.
Seeing the agony in their bright and naive eyes broke my heart. How could a nine year old girl live with such suffering? Her mother had passed away when she was six years old. The following four years saw her being a sex slave to her father.
What does her future hold? What role must I play to make her life better? We had scheduled for another few cases tomorrow, and I couldn't help but wonder...would my heart be strong enough?
Translated by Mr. Phung and Jacqueline Huynh. The original version in Vietnamese entitled "Nhật Ký Hành Trình Dak Lak - Phần 2: Chút Ghi Chú Ngày Muộn"
The media tour to Dak Lak was planned a month ago, but the schedule was modified at the last minute, due to many reasons and troubles. This resulted in the OBV-VN family spending countless hours working hard before their departure to ensure the trip would go as smoothly as possible. It was a new project for us, and we were excited to be involved.
We loaded into our 16-seat mini bus, and departed in the early morning at 5:00am, October 21st, 2016, making the long journey a bit more bearable with stories, songs and interesting stories. With us were OBV staff, our director and a female reporter who had worked with victims of pedophilia.
We arrived in the city of Buon Me Thuot in the afternoon, quickly scoffed down a late lunch and attended a conference held at Nguyen Du high school. The topic covered was how to protect children from pedophiles, with over 900 students participating. With our own in-house psychologist Nguyen Ngoc Duy presenting, our trip was off to a good start.
Children stated in own words reasons for having dolls:
Breakfast is served : steamed corn & milk
Art Therapy is used to process emotions, reduce stress & anxiety, alleviate frustration, reduce heart rate, improve physical health, and maximize creativity.
Children color and sing together so beautifully.