When despair turns into a way of life, some families in northern Vietnam become desperate for a way out. Parents grow weary of struggling to survive in poor, mountainous farming communities and long for a way to better provide for their children and give them hope of a brighter future.
That longing leads some adults, and even teenagers and children, in the highlands to take dangerous risks as they cross into bordering countries in search of employment. Sadly, these migrants are often unaware of the potentially deadly chances that they’re taking. Human trafficking of many types is a real threat in this part of Asia.
Samaritan’s Purse is working to decrease trafficking in northern Vietnam by partnering with schools to teach children and teenagers about safe migration.
“We want to equip students with knowledge,” said Tinh, the principal at a school where we are working. “They can share this information with their family and others in the community.”
Students at Tinh’s school are in grades six to nine, and most are ethnic minorities such as Hmong. More than 200 students stay in the school’s dormitory because they live far away.
Tinh said trafficking is a problem in his isolated community, as the people who migrate don’t always return home.
His students are especially likely to become trafficking victims if they don’t understand the dangers lurking beneath the seemingly hopeful promise of a better life.
These students live in remote areas and lack access to information about migration or human trafficking.
“They are not aware of what may happen to them—they just see opportunity for a good job and a chance to provide for their family,” said Ha Tran, Samaritan’s Purse safe migration project coordinator.
Samaritan’s Purse is training teachers in schools throughout northern Vietnam so that they can teach their students about safe migration.
We’re teaching about the terrible motives behind trafficking, who can become a victim, and common ways traffickers deceive people.
“Prevention is a better cure than letting [unsafe migration] happen,” Ha explained. “It can be too late to fix the mistake. Children will never know how to protect themselves if we don’t help them.”
Most Vietnamese in the highlands who migrate cannot afford or do not have access to documents such as a passport, visa, or work permit, and migration without proper documents can be perilous.
People may be forced to work long hours without receiving their promised salary or any compensation at all. Women can be sexually exploited. Children are illegally adopted and thrust into labor trafficking.
“When people migrate unsafely it can be hard for them to escape—traffickers may not let them,” Ha said. “They try their best to keep victims under their supervision.”
Ha explained that for those fortunate enough to flee their captors, returning home doesn’t always include a warm welcome. People who migrate and return are discriminated against and criticized for leaving behind their home and family and friends.
“It’s difficult for victims to reintegrate into their communities and to start their lives all over again,” Ha said.
By increasing awareness about the dangers of unsafe migration, Samaritan’s Purse staff members trust more Vietnamese children will grow up in a safe environment.
Giang, an eighth-grader at Tinh’s school, participated in the Samaritan’s Purse safe migration training. No one had ever warned him about what might happen if he crossed the border.
“I learned about tricks of traffickers and how to migrate safely,” Giang said.
He learned that he should never go anywhere with a stranger, even if they promise to give him money. He should never cross the border without first seeking counsel from trusted adults and teachers.
Giang is a dormitory student and “it’s difficult because I have to stay far away from my loved ones,” he shared.
Yet, Giang loves to learn and excels in school, especially English and math. He wants to be a teacher when he grows up.
Please pray for protection for children like Giang who are growing up in northern Vietnam. Pray that they will come to know God’s love and purpose for their lives.
Samaritan’s Purse helps vulnerable children sold and abused in the horrifying world of the sex industry, or other exploitation as child soldiers and laborers. Our Christian partners help children avoid exploitation, and rehabilitate those who have lived in bondage, bringing healing, hope, and happiness.