Free the Slaves has recently partnered with HopeBox, a social enterprise in Hanoi, Vietnam that operates on a mission to empower women who are victims of abuse and modern slavery. With a shared mission to empower survivors of modern slavery in Vietnam, FTS is supporting a program that is currently helping five women who were victims of human trafficking. The program covers skills training and employment placement for the women to become financially independent in the future.
While the program is being implemented, Vietnam has implemented strict lockdown measures in major cities including Ho Chi Minh, Da Nang, and Hanoi. The country is fighting hard to control the fast spread of the virus due to the delta variant. As of writing this post, Vietnam gets an average of 12,466 cases a day while the national death toll during the past week is 279 a day on average. This is a different story compared to last year when the country’s prevention of the spread of the virus has gained global praise for being one of the safest countries to live in during the pandemic.
Nonprofit organizations are one of the most affected sectors due to the extended lockdown. It is especially true for groups that are supporting and housing their beneficiaries within residential facilities. For HopeBox in Hanoi, implementing activities is currently a struggle as movements are limited. It is affecting the training schedules that survivors should attend. With this, FTS is working closely with Hopebox to take the right steps to make sure that survivors will continue to feel secure in the middle of what seems to be an endless lockdown.
First, we ensured that our survivors receive the COVID-19 vaccination. While inoculation efforts are massive in Hanoi, it comes as a conscious effort for Hopebox to educate the five survivors on the importance of getting vaccinated. The learning session provided assurances about the safety of taking the vaccine. They understood that it will help them look forward to a life beyond the pandemic. FTS and Hopebox understand that survivors are vulnerable to challenges in their environment, especially that they are far from their families. It is important to help them feel safe and informed, and included in the benefits that they deserve. Which in this case is receiving the right education about the vaccine.
As our survivors are on their way to healing from the trauma they have experienced as victims of trafficking, the program has ways to help them feel productive and engaged. The survivors have received sessions on yoga and meditation since these activities are great stress relievers and widely practiced in Vietnam, and these also provide them with better mental health during the lockdown. They also go through team exercises to keep them fit and healthy. It is observed that survivors continue to be responsive to program tasks, motivated to work with colleagues, and express optimism about going through the lockdown while staying indoors.
As the global pandemic took the world to a different turn, FTS is also actively learning to incorporate ways how to best support survivors of human trafficking by being creative in applying efficient strategies that support physical and mental well-being.
As our survivors will continue their journey with their program in Hopebox, we will continue to look forward to a new beginning that they will start even in midst of the pandemic.
Romcy Madronio is the Free the Slaves regional manager for Southeast Asia.