March 1, 2008
Since 2000, I have been collecting stories and experiences from our work in rescuing, rehabilitating, and supporting young women and children from the cycle of sexual abuse and sex trafficking. These stories have been troubling, trying, and downright agonizing, but these are stories that need to be told. These are stories that need to be heard.
“I’m Not Stepping Foot into a Church”
After more than three years of working with One Body Village in Cambodia I’d like to believe that I’ve built a foundation of trust, not only among the girls who we’re trying to help, but also among the pimps, and among the guards who were paid to follow us and “keep an eye” on the girls and make sure that I didn’t try to help them escape.
“Purchasing My Virginity”
Nga was not one of the “lucky” few who were actually intoxicated or drugged. After being bought, the predator took her into the bedroom and raped her. She resisted vehemently. She cried, screamed, and even tried to scratch and claw, but her resistance was met with threats and abuse. The predator then tied her hands and feet to the four corners of the bed and stuffed her mouth with a towel.
More than half of a lifetime!
I don't remember my hometown. I just know that I was born in Vietnam, where there are lots of rice fields. In 1996, when I was nine years old, a lady brought me to Cambodia to be a waitress at a coffee shop. It turns out that I wasn't brought here to be a waitress. I was brought here to fulfill the sexual desires of customers. I was passed back and forth between pimps and brothels. Since that time, my life has been a living hell. I had no contact with my family or the outside world.
Conclusion – Be their Voice!
It is with much regret to relay to you the fact that these stories are just the tip of the iceberg. I have many more stories to share. For the time being, these three stories are enough to convey the painful experiences of these poor girls.
Written by Father Martino Nguyen Ba Thong
After the first five articles were released, I received "complaints" that the stories of this journey have not been as interesting as those of my previous trips! Goodness knows I am not a mystery writer writing a best-selling thriller! The purpose of my trip was not to find subject matter for a new story full of suspense and excitement; my articles are a collection of little anecdotes of occurrences throughout my journey.
(OBV): This article was written according to a record of conversation of OBV child with her relatives and written by a psychologist (OBV staff) when she interacted with this child. When witnessing it, we did not understand why either. The title of this article is also a question without the answer for an anguishing reality, and cannot be described by words.
Dad! Where are you.... Mom! Where are you...
At nightfall, the street is transformed into an exciting and bustling scene. Many three-wheeled bikes, locally called tuktuk, lined the streets leading to TaMun Park. Along the roadside lie many bars and cafés, filled with the greetings of waitresses as they entertain their guests. Under the golden glow of the streetlamps, hordes of people from all over the world have gathered to enjoy the revelry. The street, an entire kilometer long, had every form of vice imaginable to experience; from drugs, to alcohol, to gambling, it offered any and all kinds of entertainment. However, the main attraction for many men who have came here was to engage the pleasures of the body, especially with underage children (including adolescents who were merely eight or nine years old), found virtually nowhere else in the world except... Cambodia.
- Hey! You... You... want go... Go...
Thu took the cigarette from the stranger and lit it. As she exhaled the smoke, she thought of what to say. Although the stranger did not seem interested, she was not discouraged. After all, she was accustomed to this at a young age.
Thu has met so many different people, but they were all similar. Those who uses their money to buy pleasure does not need to be polite to prostitues like Thu. Had they pitied children like her, they would not have come to places like these. Instead, they all came to purchase an evening of pleasure, to enjoy the bodies of unfortunate children no older than their own. There was no humanity, no dignity to speak of. In her eyes, all men were animals without a drop of decency. She didn't expect any courtesy, just money for food. That's all.
- I mean if you don't mind, sir, I would like to hear your story
Tuan wiped away his tears and related:
- My story... well it's really not worth mentioning. I've been volunteering at a Vietnamese refugee camp near here. Oh! Come to think of it, you've never told me your name. My name is Tuan, and yours?
- Thu, my name is Thu.
Choked by emotions, Loan could not continue. Thu joined her friend's tears. The two embraced each other and wept bitterly. Their sorrows embarrassed and he chastised his thoughtless comment.
If the girls quit what they were doing, how will they live? Absorbed by his thought, Tuan suddenly hatched an idea. Why don't I take the girls back to the refugee camp? The camp will provide for their physical needs, while offering a chance for the girls to connect with other decent people. Delighted by this conclusion, Tuan suggested:
- Why don't you come to the refugee camp with me?
An old article...
I am back in the USA after a month of wandering in VN and Campuchia, there is still so much to sort out inside. First of all, I still owe you a report on my “true feelings”, which I promised I would write. One friend even wrote: “ We are still waiting for your stories”, even though they already read reports and saw pictures posted on the website , from others in the group. They said those reports did not have “my marks” and demanded the stories I still owe them.
An old story...
After"exploding" in the first story, I am less upset. So I am now calm enough to sit down and write about the second story: the story of people who are really crazy.
Some people said about us: " Those nuts! Tết is a time to spend with family and friends, not a time to wander on the streets like that!" I can only laugh it off when I hear them, how can I explain to them? However, once in a while I would snapped when I feel criticized too much: " If priests don't do that work, can parishioners do it? Do you want to? If you do, then I will stop." I know I should not talk like that but once in a while, I got mad. Talk about crazy!
1 pm, the First Day of Tết, my parents and I arrived back in Saigon after celebrating with our extended family since the 28th of last month. The streets of Saigon were empty. My parents and uncles went to visit our relatives to offer their well wishes for the New Year. I excused myself and went back to my hotel to wash my clothes and get ready for my New Year night excursion, which I will add to my Cambodian trip on the 2nd day of Tết.
After finishing the preparation, I turned on my computer to answer email. I noticed my reporter friend was still online, which meant she was on call, so I sent her a greeting. It turned out she was almost done with her call, she invited me to go with her to visit her adopted children in area 4. An hour later, the two of us were making our way through the winding alleys of the slum area. When we stopped in front of the house, people were staring at us with curiosity. Vũ whispered, " I'm already a familiar sight, it's you they are looking at." I only laughed without saying anything. Vũ already told me the story of the three sisters that we were visiting while we were on our way. This is the story by my friend Pham Vũ, in her own words:
My dear friends, as I have shared in previous articles about my "night flights", I usually go to Viet Nam and Campuchia for my work with One Body Village-website http://www.onebodyvillage.org/. , and the "night flights" were only my own personal excursions, hoping to help a few people and at the same time create occasions for young people in Viet Nam to experience the happiness of giving.
That is why I could not post the work I did on social media, not like I could tell about my "night flights". Whenever you called me and got a busy signal, that meant I was outside of the area of service of Viet Nam, in another country. I'm sorry but I couldn't tell you where I was. Now that it is over, I can finally tell you the story.
Please enjoy the first story as told by my cousin, whom I dragged along to Campuchia with me.
I totally did not plan on going to Campuchia. However, my post-Tết celebration plans fell apart, plus an incident in my life upset me quite a bit. So, I accepted my cousin Thông's invitation to accompany him to Campuchia, though I had turned him down before, not having any interest in his "Cambodian trips." Surprisingly, he did not give up and kept inviting, and since I was feeling down, I decided to go with him. Very simple, if he invited me for a mission trip, I would have plenty of work to occupy me so I can forget things I was trying to forget. It would be wonderful if we also went to see Angkor Wat, but it would be alright too if we did not, he did not invite me to be a tourist. It was all my guessing anyway, he never told me what the trip was about when he invited me to go to Cambodia with him.