She would accept odd jobs to make ends meet, to save money for her daughter's education, while her new husband would take on customers and return home at any time of the day or night.
One day she returned home to discover that he had been sexually harassing and raping his step daughter for years! She was only thirteen years of age! Thirteen! Was he a human or an animal?!
He would beat her mother, his wife, if she ever exposed him. He would do it, she believed, for she had already witnessed him beating her mother at times. She had to keep her mouth shut for he mother's safety. Day after day, month after month, year after year. From being ranked second in her class, her grades declined to just average.
Her mother at the time had not heard of One Body Village, a group that was able to help, rescue and protect the child victims of sexual harassment and pedophiles, She was grateful. I felt so much empathy for her and immediately jumped in to help her little girl. A plan was immediately put into place to visit her home. The look of hope in the little girl's eyes motivated me to pursue this case.
We, two members from One Body Village, made the trip out to visit the child. After traveling from city to city, cramped and uncomfortable from such a long journey, we received a call from Mrs. V with further instructions to get to her home. Both of them, mother and daughter, were waiting for us at the crossroads next to a market, surrounded by the lush green rice fields.
We traveled a bit further, turning down a small side road by dragon fruit plants. The road was so narrow that the branches of the dragon fruit plants grazed our faces. We admired the driving skills of our driver, had that me myself driving, we might've ended up in the river with the fish.
We finally reached their home, where mother and daughter lived with the grandparents. It was a small house, a shack. The interior was old and crumbling apart. A lone table rested on the solid dirt floor, with a faded tablecloth making it look even more sad. The toilet was a small dirty outhouse. The most precious item in the house was a wooden plank, used as a bed. We were offered to sit on it as there weren't enough chairs.
We started talking with the grandparents and the mother about the past, present and future of their precious daughter/granddaughter. They were extremely happy to hear of what OBV could offer as they clearly did not have enough money to afford her education. The conversation went quite smoothly. They may have been poor in money, but they were certainly not poor in hospitality.
We were offered lunch, but had to politely decline and promised to come back soon and eat with them next time.
With the family agreeing to let their daughter come home with us, we contacted the authorities for her registration, which was easily accepted. Wow, finally, the little girl with a painful past and dark history had a chance at a brighter future ahead of her.
Returning home from the long trip, we had reached An Giang when I suddenly got an update from her family: they had decided to renege on their decision; they did not want their daughter to live far away from them. I was dumbfounded. Everything had suddenly turned 180 degrees. Why? The grandparents had wholeheartedly agreed, and now they'd changed their minds. Why? I had to find out the reasoning behind this.
As it turned out, Mrs. V's older sister had returned from working in the field to discover her niee was gone. She protested loudly, and convinced everyone this was the wrong decision. Mrs. V was too meek and could not convince everyone to stick to the original decision. I spoke again of the benefits and the bright future her daughter could have if she came to live with One Body Village. She said she would think it over....
We had made plans to meet the next day so she could pass me the school transcripts so that we could enrol her daughter into the new school. She called me the next day while I was sleeping. I sprang up and rushed to the door, thinking she had arrived at my place. I was wrong. She had not come. Instead, she sobbed down the phone. "I'm sorry. I really want my daughter to live at One Body Village but everyone is so against it and call me an irresponsible mother".
I continued to try and persuade her one last time, by finding her a job in the city so she could be close to her daughter. This piece of bad news had spoiled by day, and I was now feeling low.
I continue to wait. Continue to pray.
I called her one last time, feeling nervous. "Sorry," she said, "everyone opposes this idea."
I had reached my limit. "I can't do anything more to help. I just want your daughter's life to be better, so that she can have a brighter future and forget about her past," I replied. It upset me terribly that members of her family were too selfish and narrow minded to understand this. Who would live and stay with her forever? Mrs. V, please think about the future of your daughter. After all, only you, and nobody else can make the right decision for your daughter.
I continue to keep her in my prayers and hope she'll change her mind...
Translated by Jacqueline Huynh and Mr. Phung. The original version in Vietnamese entitled "Hành Trình Long An Buồn"