The game of “Duck, duck, goose” is a particularly funny one. Through some imaginative magic a squatting duck is transformed into a mad goose, which then proceeds to chase you while you scramble for safety in the circle. Strange as it may be, its enjoyment seems universal.
Discovering this was a highlight of my trip to Vietnam as a World Vision Youth Ambassador. We visited a youth club in the Yen Bai Province of Northern Vietnam, we taught the children this silly game from our childhood and they all became wild geese with glee!
While games and play are an important part of these clubs, they also deal with much bigger issues. This youth club forms a part of the End Trafficking in Persons program aimed at teaching children the dangers of child trafficking.
In Vietnam, moving away from home can be a huge risk
There is a high poverty rate in the area and a lack of job opportunities. Nearly all families in the area are rural farmers, growing crops like rice, corn and cinnamon, but this intensive work does not always bring in enough money.
The province is only about 160 km to the Chinese border, so it is very common for families and children of Yen Bai to migrate for work. While this can provide them with good income opportunities, without the right knowledge about how to migrate safely, they are at risk of being trafficked for their labour. For the children attending the youth club, travelling across the border for work is a normal occurrence for family members just a few years older than them.
World Vision is teaching children to be more aware of danger
At the youth club, we sat on small stools in the wooden clubhouse, drawings plastered around like wallpaper under the orange light of an old bulb. We asked what they had learned from coming to the youth club. A hum of whispers spread around the room.
One of the youngest, a boy of about seven or eight, ventured up, stood tall and said that he learned that it is important to have identification documents and not give them up to anyone when migrating – as he gestured to the drawing on the wall that told that story.
Another boy of about 10 stated that they must be weary of strangers playing tricks. A girl of 14 stated that it was important to inform local authorities of any planned migration.
Through Child Rescue, children learn to protect themselves
I loved learning about how the End Trafficking in Persons program is teaching children to protect themselves. Through the knowledge they gain in a space where they are actively encouraged to participate, children become more confident, more aware of their rights and are active rather than passive members of the community. However, anti-trafficking awareness and training also extends to parents, local authorities and state officials to build a fortress of anti-trafficking knowledge.
It seemed to me that at the heart of the youth club is the importance of protecting and preserving childhoods. It is difficult to imagine myself as a young girl ever having to even consider migrating for work, the risk of being trafficked for labour or indeed even really knowing what these things meant.
Most of my days were spent at school, playing game after silly game. But I realised that for the children we met, the vulnerability of their situations means that ignorance can never be bliss; education and awareness is vital to the protection of their right to be children.
When a child is equipped to protect themselves, there is a lesser risk of that child being trafficked into child labour or other exploitative situations and they have a greater chance of reaching their potential.
Before we went out in the mosquito-filled dusk for a round of “Duck, duck, goose”, the children told us about their future dreams naming policemen, doctors, teachers and superstars. I realised that every youth club meeting increases the very possibility of these dreams and protects a childhood of running wild and free as geese.
Save the date: 30th July is World Day Against Trafficking. Join us on Facebook and Twitter to raise awareness about the children trapped in a life of exploitation and what you can do to help.