Sarah Tran volunteers at the An Giang Dong Thap Alliance for the Prevention of Trafficking (ADAPT) in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta.
When we go on our scholarship home visits, I wake up at 5am. The sky is still dark beyond our pastel blue gates and the muted sounds are of street vendors getting ready to wake up the rest of the world. I put on my helmet and step out the door.
The provinces we work in are far out in the rural countryside near the border. Each trip takes from 1.5 to 3 hours by motorbike past lush green rice paddies, churning clouds of dust from poor roads, and tiny ferries. Our staff visits each of the nearly 400 girls we have in our scholarship program to ask about their family’s situation, her academic progress, and how we can continue to help prevent these young at-risk girls from dropping out of school and being trafficked.
The days are long and the sun beats down on us wherever we are, but each time I step inside of the homes of these girls, I am both relieved and saddened. Most of all – I am what I see reflected in their eyes – determined. Many make only as much money as it will take to feed their family that day. Girls’ schoolbags lie next to the lottery tickets they sell to help their families. A daughter’s foot lies close to her mother’s hand as they sit next to each other, telling me she would never let her daughter get trafficked because they only have each other. One girl laughs and clutches my arm as she takes us from one friend’s house to another and only later do I find out that she has been the sole provider for herself and her mother for years. She is one of the sweetest and strongest girls I have ever met. And later that night, when I stumble, exhausted, back into my bed – I think of her.