Fighting brothels with bicycles
Remember those dramatic 1980s Sally Struthers television appeals, about how just pennies a day could buy a bag of rice that saves a child’s life? In the Mekong Delta, activists working against human trafficking believe that just $50 can buy the bicycle that stops a poor Vietnamese village girl from dropping out of school and ending up in a Cambodian brothel.
This ongoing bicycle project appealed to the Rockland County Rotarians, veterans and friends traveling in our humanitarian tour of Vietnam, and the group raised enough money to donate 36 bicycles this week. My father and I attended the ceremony with them on Tuesday, and were astounded at the delighted screaming that greeted our arrival. I wish I had gotten it on tape – the closest comparison would be to a Michael Jackson concert in the 1980s. (I’ll try to stop making so many ‘80s references, but both of those were spot on!) The other folks in our group confirmed that this was an especially enthusiastic welcome, although they were very warmly received when they dedicated a school in Dalat and donated 40 pediatric wheelchairs earlier in their trip.
My father made some new friends at this ceremony, and gave out his e-mail address to several dozen clamoring children with notebooks, eager to practice their few words of English. He’s been marveling at the brightness in the faces of Vietnamese children today – even the ones we met, who have led extremely underprivileged lives – than the ones with the sad eyes he remembers from the Vietnam War.