ADAPT: Preventing trafficking through educational and vocational choices
What change do you want to bring to the world?
The chance of becoming enslaved in the modern world is 1.8 per 1000 people. This rate is much higher in Vietnam and increases every year. In the past 5 years, more than 6000 Vietnamese women and children have been identified as trafficking survivors and 22000 have been suspected to be trafficked for sexual exploitation.
ADAPT (An giang/Dong thap Alliance for the Prevention of Trafficking) is a project of Pacific Links Foundation (PALS) that seeks to combat the trafficking of Vietnamese young girls and women by enhancing their educational attainment and improving their vocational choices. PALS is the only organization based in Vietnam's remote border provinces to provide comprehensive services and a grassroots approach to reach communities most vulnerable to the trafficking threats.
What are the primary activities of your project?
ADAPT seeks to empower young girls and women by increasing their access to education and vocational training. Asset-building is at the core of our assistance. We believe that when young girls and women can build assets, they can improve their social and economic opportunities in the market economy. Moreover, higher levels of education and training leads to better economic prospects, which reduce their susceptibility to traffickers.
One of the ADAPT activities is the Scholarship program, in which recipients can receive:
Long-term Academic Scholarships, providing young girls a chance to obtain a high school education from the 4th-6th grade. Scholarships cover tuition, health insurance, uniforms, books and school supplies, after-school tutoring, and summer programs.
Vocational Training Scholarships, enrolling at-risk young women from the ages of 16 to 24 in sustainable vocational training courses such as embroidery, craft/mat weaving, industrial sewing, childcare, cosmetology, and culinary skills. The training lasts for 3 months to 2 years, depending on age. ADAPT also supports the enrollment of these young women in the highly regarded and rigorous SaigonTourist’s 6-month culinary arts program in Ho Chi Minh City funded by Chefs Without Borders in San Francisco. They also receive a secondary vocational certification upon completion.
Job Placement & Individual Development Accounts (IDA), providing partial matching for savings to encourage fiscal responsibility, income supplements and rent subsidies during initial transition period into the work force.
What is innovative about your initiative? How is it a new contribution to the field?
Asset-building is PALS's core commitment to power economic opportunities. We have proven that the prevention formula works against trafficking, but it must be comprehensive in its nature and work with all community/family partners. Unlike other scholarships that are one-time handouts, ADAPT employs a comprehensive, individualized, and targeted approach to assist recipients and their families. We work with community partners to identify the most at-risk young girls and women in regions with the highest rates of human trafficking to provide them with the highest level of long-term support.
For each year until graduation from high school, each girl student receives academic support as well as an opportunity to attend summer camp, where she learns important safety and life skills through interactive workshops. Students and their families also participate in Family Day, which emphasizes the preventive role of education. Our comprehensive support continues in the 6 months after graduation during the job placement period, with the goals of increasing their job retention, helping to establish their independent lives, and promoting responsible fiscal habits.
PALS builds close relationships with families to raise their awareness about trafficking risks and to encourage them to keep their daughters in school. A program manager with a large US funding organization said “[PALS] staff knows each family personally, looks after them like a set of den mothers and gives them a level of attention and commitment I have not seen in my ten years working in international development.”
Tell us about the community that you engage? eg. economic conditions, political structures, norms and values, demographic trends, history, and experience with engagement efforts.
PALS operates ADAPT in the South at the Vietnam-Cambodia border and in the North at the Vietnam-China border, where more than 70% Vietnam’s trafficking cases occur. The trafficking victims often come from impoverished, remote, and porous regions. In these regions, families and the community are plagued with high unemployment, limited economic and educational opportunities, and low awareness about human trafficking.
Many women and children in Vietnam’s border provinces and remote areas are trafficked into forced prostitution throughout Asia – including Cambodia, China, Thailand, and Malaysia – or into exploitative labour contracts in Malaysia, South Korea, Taiwan, China, Japan, as well as Thailand, Indonesia, the United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Russia, and the Middle East. There are also risks of bondage and servitude via internationally brokered marriages to China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, and increasingly South Korea.
The communities that we serve come from marginalized populations where their voices and personal identities can easily be drowned out, making it difficult to reach out to them and raise awareness on the trafficking issue. However, we have been able to partner and collaborate with community stakeholders and government authorities due to our vast experience and knowledge on the ground, as well as, a dedicated staff who is always willing get to know community members and hear their concerns.
Share the story of the founder and what inspired the founder to start this project
Diep Vuong was working to build a coalition of Vietnamese American NGOs with projects in Vietnam when MSNBC first broke their story about rescuing young Vietnamese girls from Cambodian brothels in 2003. Diep immediately organized a trip for 3-6 organizations to go with her to the Mekong Delta provinces in Vietnam in order to understand the scale and scope of the trafficking problem in the region.
When Diep asked for profiles about those who have been trafficked, all of the government officials said that the data was not available to understand the scope. Given her knowledge about poverty and cultural issues in Vietnam, she asked the officials if at least one thousand children would be at risk of trafficking each year in their province alone. An official calmly closed his notebook, looked up at Diep and said “Unofficially, yes.”
Appalled at the pervasiveness and the lack of action on the issue, Diep knew that she had to galvanize friends, families, and the community to start a project to address human trafficking, especially sex trafficking, in the region. Based on the numbers of under-age Vietnamese prostitutes arrested by the Cambodian government and based on the drop out and disappearing rates of young girls in the Mekong Delta region, she knew that the project couldn't wait because there were thousands of young women and girls who were already trafficked.
Since then, Diep bravely traverses shifting time zones and cultures to combat human trafficking. Diep passionately talks about PALS and ADAPT wherever and to whomever she meets.