LTM, a trafficking survivor, and Nguyễn Tường Long
April 2, 2015
Ta Van, Sapa, is a poetic village hidden under a field of pine trees, whose beauty rivals the visions from my own dreams. The melodious sound of birdsongs and the murmuring of the stream fill the everyday current of life, as the villagers weave fabric as long as our ethnic tradition. In recent years, the deforestation has laid waste to the land and destroyed the beauty that nature has graciously given to us. Our beautiful and peaceful life slowly diminished before us. The natural disasters occurred successively: The torrential downpours, a violent rockslide, and then a terrible landslide swept half of my village and family members away. The villagers who remained helped my family build a temporary shelter next to the stream. With a family of four girls and no land to work on, my parents left the village to go look for work. They left me, the eldest of four and fifteen years old, in charge of the house.
One day, a stranger came to my village and told me that he would give me money to buy some new clothes and shoes. I had never left the village before meeting that stranger. He took me to a faraway place where I was suddenly pushed into a hotel and was forced to have sex with Chinese men I had never met. I have never experienced so much pain, both physically and emotionally. One night, I escaped through the bathroom window and ran outside. Luckily, a kind-hearted stranger helped me with my escape.
A year passed before I finally found my way back to my village. I was in a state of shock and disbelief when I was greeted with disdain from my own community. Rumors had spread in my absence that I had been working as a prostitute in China. The old wounds were still healing when family members and neighbors lacerated me with new cuts filled with discrimination and scorn. Though I dreamt of taking my own life, I woke up when I thought about my younger sisters and how much they needed me.
Upon hearing of my story, a social worker came by to talk to me and offered guidance. I was given a chance to stay at Pacific Links Foundation’s Compassion House in Lao Cai, Vietnam. This was where I was offered food, shelter, healthcare, lessons in life skills development, general studies and English lessons, and vocational training in the tourism sector. Slowly, I could feel my psychological wounds beginning to heal. With the help of everyone around me these last two years at the Compassion House, I have found renewed meaning and value in life. I believe that there are still many beautiful things to see.
- Written by LTM, a trafficking survivor
After a fruitful two years in the Lao Cai Compassion House, LTM returned home to share her experience with her village. Nguyễn Tường Long, the Deputy Head of the Department of Social Vices Prevention (DSVP) in Lao Cai, shares his perspective:
- Me: Would you like to return home?
- LTM: Yes, I am really eager to return home!
- Me: To do what?
- LTM: To meet my lovely siblings and mother who has worked so hard to support her family.
After meeting with her family, LTM bravely met with her childhood friends from her village. She courageously told them about the dark days and months that she spent in China. She told them about the profound price that she has had to pay for believing in the false promises and lies of crooked people. Her story quickly spread throughout the entire village. But instead of derision and ridicule, LTM’s tale of caution now summoned a call-to-action. Concerned parents throughout the village rushed home to warn their young daughters against listening to false promises that could put them in LTM’s position.
Pacific Links Foundation’s love, faith, and confidence in LTM has helped with her healing and transformation into a beautiful young lady who now serves as the village’s premier tour guide for international visitors.
When asked what her future dreams are, LTM replied, “I only possess two small dreams: (1) I hope that every tourist that visits will help us plant one flower or tree, so that our environmental conservation efforts will keep the village vibrantly green and beautiful; (2) I hope that the younger generation in my village will be given the opportunity to learn English.