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Dr. Leanh Nguyen Discusses Human Trafficking & Working With Pacific Links Organization

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Dr. Leanh Nguyen Discusses Human Trafficking & Working with Pacific Links Organization

While most of us might consider slavery to be a phenomenon of the past, human trafficking generates billions of dollars every year, and remains a prominent global issue. The International Labour Organization estimates that there are 40.3 million victims of human trafficking globally, where 81 percent are trapped in forced labour, 25 percent are children, and 75 percent are women and girls. To dive further into the topic, we spoke to Dr. Leanh Nguyen, who runs a podcast called On Living: The Trauma and Beauty of Being Human. In a conversation with Mimi Vu from the Pacific Links Foundation, Dr. Nguyen learned about the historical, socio-economic and human conditions in Pacific Asia that makes trafficking a lucrative business. She and her guest also discussed the remedial strategies to restore victims of trafficking to a life of dignity and self-agency.

Dr. Leanh Nguyen

Before we get started, we want to let you know more of Dr. Leanh Nguyen and her podcast On Living: The Trauma and Beauty of Being Human. To understand why this program is important to her –she refers to it as cri de Coeur, a long song to her fellow listeners—we need to look no further than her life trajectory.

Dr. Leanh Nguyen was born in war-torn Vietnam and escaped to Europe as a refugee of Communism. After the refugee camp and then France, she emigrated to the United States where she obtained her higher education. She brings to her work as a psychologist this range of life experiences, and particularly a multi-cultural, multi-lingual sensibility that is attuned to the surprising, wrenching ways in which people express their unique humanity. This dedication to understand and to behold human life has taken her from acute-care psychiatric wards, to community health clinics, to refugee camps and immigration detention centers. The 20 years of studies and practice in psychology have wrought in her a deep sense of wonder and awe about the human condition, as well as a fierce commitment to protect its fragility and honor its beauty. She thus created the podcast to share her deeply humanistic faith in the human condition.

Dr. Leanh Nguyen’s goal with this podcast is to explore, through her interviews and conversations, the answers to what make us human. She also seeks to catch a glimpse into the answers to what it means to be alive –what it takes to remain authentically, thoroughly human through the wounding’s and surprises of Life. Every hour, every week, she aims to call our attention to and take a stand for the experiences that make us human. Her conversations are about asking questions that clarify the existential quest that we are on. Following this commitment to the beauty and sanctity of human life, and her faith in the power of connecting and sharing life stories, Dr. Leanh Nguyen sought out Mimi Vu and featured the non-profit organization called Pacific Links.

Pacific Links

Pacific Links was originally founded by two Vietnamese women. It is an organization that leads counter-trafficking efforts at the frontiers of Vietnam by increasing access to education, providing shelter and reintegration services, and enabling economic opportunities. The group follow the at-risk population and spread of human trafficking to best respond to their needs. Their work is community-based, factory-based and school-based. On her podcast, Dr. Leanh. Nguyen spoke to Mimi Vu, the Director of Advocacy and Partnerships at Pacific Links to gain further insight in the issue of human trafficking and what the organization does to restore dignity and autonomy to victims of trauma.

Mimi Vu is native to Flint, Michigan, but over the last 15 years has worked in various places including New York and Vietnam. Since 2006, she has been based in Vietnam, and has worked with Pacific Links, which that was founded in 2001. Mimi Vu explains that 65% of all people in Vietnam are under the age of 45, many of which were born after the war. These individuals are young, hungry, and want to find sustainable ways to support their families. As they do not have the resources and access to the opportunities that we do in the West, in terms of education and jobs, they take risks that can lead them into dangerous situations. Vietnam is the shining light of development in Asia, with a GDP that has grown by 7% for almost 8 or 9 years, and everyone wants to invest in this booming market. Unfortunately, a part of this growing market is the commodification of people. Human trafficking is one of the most lucrative businesses in the world, and is done without regulation, taxes, or limits.

Vietnam is the top country for trafficking victims in Asia and Europe. 80% of all total victims from Vietnam are taken to China due to their one child policy. As there is a disproportionate number of men to women in China, women are being taken from Vietnam at alarming rates. Additionally, people from Vietnam are also being sold to Cambodia and Malaysia. Vietnam has one third of all trafficking victims and are number one for foreign prostitutes and suspected victims of trafficking in Malaysia.

Pacific Links was founded in 2001 by Vietnamese refugees in Silicon Valley. Originally, the organization was founded to help educate the Vietnamese population to support their growing economy. When they realized the scope of human trafficking in Vietnam and that so many women were going missing, the foundation shifted their focus to fighting this booming industry.

Helping Victims Re-integrate into Society

Pacific Links works with victims of human trafficking by helping them re-integrate into society. Working with Vietnamese border guard and law enforcement, the organization aid and facilitate women coming back to Vietnam. Mimi Vu views the reintegration program as a prevention program. About 60% of all traffickers are former victims, and Pacific Links is working hard to try and stop the vicious cycle. Victims of human trafficking tend to be young women and girls who have been through the worst situations possible, and Pacific Links try to help them find the silver lining in their situations to strengthen and create awareness for others.

Returning can be a difficult transition for victims, and Pacific Links is keen to provide them with the tools they need to live productive, autonomous lives. They provide the former victims with a safe place to live, education, health care, emotional support through art therapy, yoga, meditation, and life skills training. To these women, all of whom have been traumatized by their experiences, their agenda is to give them the bridge back to a productive, integrated existence amidst their peers and society.

The story of Pacific Links is a prime example of what sustains the host’s faith and passion in humanity, despite the ruptures and wounding’s that people can inflict on one another. Dr. Leanh Nguyen shares with her listeners that she lives and works according to the hard-earned knowledge that the light enters through the crack, that beauty and strength come from hardship, that love, and wisdom are often forged in loss and suffering. She also builds her podcast on the conviction that our best quality and asset as a species is the ability to connect to one another and, through that connection, to lift ourselves out of darkness and violence.

Through her Podcast series, Leanh Nguyen aims to shine a light on what makes us human. Her interviews and explorations with guests aim to show us the precious, awe-inspiring, surprising, heart-breaking things about being human. And ultimately, she aims to remind us of the gift and responsibility that we have toward one another. Her podcast explores Art, Education, Psychoanalysis, Human Rights, and much more. It can be found on Voice America.



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