Like in other border areas in the region, human trafficking is a serious problem in Lao Cai, Vietnam, close to the border with China. Between 2012 and 2017, Lao Cai province alone received 661 returned trafficking victims, 127 of them children (source: Lao Cai Department of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs). And these numbers only include the ones who managed to escape and return to their country, not the ones still missing. In addition, being trafficked is a highly traumatic experience, with rescued victims suffering adverse consequences such as mental and physical health problems for a long time after their return. So how do we help?
Knowledge = Prevention
In Lao Cai province, located in the mountainous region of northwestern Vietnam, close to the border with China, human trafficking is a serious problem. Aide et Action Vietnam, which works in the area to make education accessible for all children – particularly those from disadvantaged ethnic communities – aims to prevent human trafficking by raising awareness about the issue and equipping children with the skills to recognize the dangers and avoid being trafficked. Taking primary school students on a special study tour to the border area to learn about human trafficking is one of our activities to raise awareness and fight human trafficking.
A Two-day Study Tour to the Border
Lao Cai, 19 April 2019 – The excitement was palpable among the 61 ethnic minority students from two of Aide et Action’s project primary schools who, thanks to funds provided by HSBC Bank, had the opportunity to go on a an two-day study tour to the Lao Cai border area where they learned about human trafficking, a clear and present danger in their lives. The students from Lau Thi Ngai and Lung Cai primary schools (Bac Ha district), were escorted by their teachers and some of their parents, as well as staff from Aide et Action Vietnam and HSBC bank, organizers of the tour.
Despite more than a half day of arduous travel in 39 degrees Celcius heat to reach the border, children and adults were all ears when they reached the Lao Cai Provincial Center for Social Affairs and actively engaged in the information session led by staff of the center. They heard about the dangers of human trafficking, listened to stories about real-life cases and learnt how to avoid and prevent human trafficking. At the center, the students also had the opportunity to put on performances showcasing their unique culture, play educational games on the topic of human trafficking, and interact with the children at the center.
The next day, a visit to the Lao Cai International Border Gate, setting foot on the border between Vietnam and China, was on the program. The group met with border soldiers who explained the proper, legal procedures for crossing the border – essential knowledge making everyone less vulnerable to trafficking. Officials at the border gate also provided the children with advice on how to protect themselves from the dangerous and malicious traffickers. The message from the border guards that “You can only cross the border when you have your passport stamped with a red stamp from the Border Guard Station!” definitely sunk in.
At the end of the tour, the students could show off the knowledge they had gained about human trafficking during the trip. During the “Golden Bell” contest, organized by Aide et Action and HSBC staff, the students constantly surprised everyone with the depth of their new knowledge, giving accurate answers to all the questions. The organizers of the contest even had to come up with more difficult questions to make the contest super-challenging, and to eventually be able to identify 4 winners.
Clearly students (and adults alike) came away from the study tour with a much better understanding of the risks and consequences of human trafficking, and knowledge that not only helps them avoid being trafficked, but that they can also help spread through their communities to fight human trafficking altogether. The children and teachers agreed it was an extremely informative, effective and fun-filled two days learning about the very serious topic of human trafficking.
With thanks to HBSC Bank for kindly funding this study tour.