I worked with Pacific Links Foundation as a volunteer, consultant, and partner from 2008 - 2012. The organization makes a clear impact on the quality of life and opportunities for the people they serve: young girls and women in remote border regions of Vietnam. The organization can still improve their ability to communicate their impact to the public. The staff are dedicated, passionate, and genuine, though often stretched too thin.
How to stop human trafficking and What can we do ? I really didn't find out the answer before, but I now has the effective answer when I work at PALS. Keeping poor girls going to school until graduation, so that they can have many choices for their future, helping girls who dropped out of school long ago by vocational training and introducing job and raising awareness of human trafficking for girls and the community are good ways to prevent human trafficking. "If I didn't receive ADAPT scholarship, I dropped out. Thank to PALS for helping me keep going to school until graduation high school". That is what the scholarship recipient had commented, it really changed her life. PALS has make a great effort to help poor girls could have a better future by education. PALS can help more poor young girls to get a better life with supporting money and effort from me and you.
PALS is doing very well in their activities to prevent girls from being trafficked, protect victims and help built women’s capacity to fight against human trafficking. In fact, PALS has contributed significantly to anti-human trafficking through their scholarship program – support poor girls in the border provinces to go to school, reintegration assistance program – provide a safe place and help create stable sources of income for returnees, or other activities such as providing vocational training and job placement for girls who dropped our of school, organizing training courses for women to help increase their awareness of human trafficking and strengthen their capacity, or supporting for workshops on social work training, etc.
With nearly eight years of operation, PALS has become a significant organization preventing and fighting against human traficking in Vietnam. The 2 shelters for the victims of human traficking, one in the North and the other in the South, together with the scholarships for girls in border provinces who are in poverty and at high risk of dropping out of school are what PALS has been doing in the battle of anti- human traficking.
Pacific Links Foundation (also affectionately known as PALS) is one of those rare organizations that is not yet well known internationally but is surprisingly solid in its mission, objectives, and staff composition. I've known the staff for more than 2 years and have had some humbling experiences during my trips to participate in some programmatic activities. Anyone who is able to interact with the staff or visit the recipients and their families in the impoverished regions in which PALS operates will undoubtedly fall in love with this little NGO gem.
When I was first placed at PALS as an English Resource volunteer, little did I know it would be one of the most transformative experiences of my life. PALS serves girls and young women in the rural border regions of Vietnam and trafficking survivors with an exceptional hard working staff. I learned so much from the community and the local staff both professionally and as a human being.
Pacific Links Foundation (PALs) is the best international non-profit working against human trafficking in Vietnam today. PALs is a pioneer organization running 2 shelters for rescued victims while providing scholarships to young girls in the poorest regions of Vietnam, to increase their potential and value in society via education. I’ve learned that human trafficking relates to this, because these young girls live in the most at risk regions of Vietnam, where young girls and women are trafficked, exploited, and abused. Therefore, PALs has taken the initiative to empower these at risked girls through education, and the staff conducts annual visits on these girls and their families as apart of the follow up and building relationships approach. I have worked with other non-profit organizations, and have also examined the work of various NGOs, and one of the key things I’ve noticed is how essential the process of “follow up” is when distributing any form of charity to the people. For example, an organization (will not name) provided computers for students in a small village in the Philippines, but within less than a few months the computers were missing and used as personal property in the homes of the school and government officials. The students never got to learn how to use the computer due to the lack of follow up on that charity.
Working with Pacific Links Foundation, has allowed me to partake in multiple grassroots development work. I was able to go on scholarship visits for the first time with the PALs staff on a 3 weeks journey. We trekked out to the most rural villages of the Mekong Delta, and what I’ve seen was so beautiful yet tragic at the same time. Its beauties not only reside within the unique scenic landscapes of lotus ponds and rice patties, but in the potential of these young girls with a chance at a brighter future. While its tragedies root from poverty, which places extreme odds against these girls and their families, subjecting them to potential risks in abuse, exploitation, and human trafficking.
After the scholarship visits in An Giang, Kien Giang, and Don Thap, there are certain realizations that has cemented in my knowledge and understanding of these poor communities. I’ve learned that most of the parents of the scholarship recipients are of low to no education levels, which forces them to work in rice patties, construction, or laborious rented services. Their employment are based on seasonal changes, therefore most of them are without income during the dry season. This is common among the majority of our scholarship recipient families that we have spoken with.
I’ve caught a glimpse of how this country’s increase in development and globalization through foreign investment, import and export trade, has left the rural villages of Vietnam out of the economic prosperity loop. Forcing the villagers to re-adapt to the rise in prices of daily commodities, while their wages remain the same. These conditions have forced many villagers to migrate to the cities to for employment, which increases the rate of human trafficking both in the labor and sex industries. Every year students are forced to quit school in order to help financially support their parents. Most of these are young girls end up: working with their parents, migrate with a neighbor or relative for work, or stay at home to watch over their younger siblings.
I’ve visited about a dozen families a day and there were a few situations that stood out to me. One young girl was abandoned by both her parents after a divorce, leaving her wit her grandmother, who was a 70-year old woman, selling lottery tickets at 30-40,000 VND (1.50-2.00 USD) a day to support her. Her grandmother was uneducated and has lived a laborious life, and did not want the same for her granddaughter. She was thankful for our support. She said, “You know, I couldn’t do this alone, thanks to your organization, my granddaughter can have an education. I am old but I will try my best to support her going to school for as long as I can do this job.” This family stood out to me, because the grandmother’s immense love and sacrifice for the young girl who lacks the presence and support of her mother and father.
There were various situations outside of school that our organization was unable to assist, but it was evident that these circumstances worked against the girls’ educational efforts. Some of the scholarship recipients had no bicycle for school, no electricity to do homework at night, worked graveyard hours with parents, and usually get teased by classmates for being poor. I’ve also gather some interesting information pertaining to the miscommunication between parents and schoolteachers about the availability of tutoring to assist the students in school. All these were issues that I’ve recorded during the interviews, and these issues are the main causes that have deter the girls from accelerating in school. I’m aware that these obstacles are out of our control to resolve, but it’s good to be aware of them, so that we can better support these girls.
I’ve also noted the majority of the families are now more aware of the increase in human trafficking through news, radio, school, woman’s union and our organization. So the awareness campaigns have fulfill its purpose in reaching the at risk population. I’m glad to be apart of such a great grassroots development project, that empowers the girls through the gift of knowledge, while preventing the risk of them being trafficked. I hope this scholarship program continues to expand and assist these young girls who would not have a chance otherwise.
I've heard of Pacific Links through a friend. Among the many factors which compelled me to volunteer for their cause were: their focus on prevention through scholarships for at-risk girls, their work in the field at their shelters in Lao Cai and An Giang, and reintegration programs. The most important aspect for me, however, was their focus on education. By educating the community about human trafficking and putting at-risk girls through school, they've effectively prevented many tragic stories from happening. In volunteering at Pacific Links (office in Milpitas), I found the leaders of the organization to be passionate and their program effective. It is an organization worth supporting and my family and I will continue supporting it for as long as we're able, either through volunteering or donations. Thank you, PALS, for all that you do!
I was introduced to Pacific Links Foundation by a college roommate who volunteered with them in Vietnam for 2 years. After volunteering with them in their CA office, I can see why she continues to dedicate time- the PALS team is extremely dedicated, at times truly self-less, to ensure that the young women and girls in the comprehensive programs are empowered to be self-sustaining during and after to PREVENT and COMBAT human trafficking. I continue to give to PALS because ALL girls needs to be invested in. Like any organization, PALS can use more money and volunteers to continuously improve their programs.