Despite the many other hairdressers in the community, Anh’s hairdressing salon is one of the most popular in town with clients travelling far and wide for hair appointments with her. Anh sometimes has to turn clients away and reschedule appointments because the salon gets so packed.

Today, Anh is a strong and independent woman. Her hair salon is a source of daily inspiration and she loves running her own business. But Anh’s life wasn’t always this way.

Anh was only 16 years old when she was trafficked across the Vietnamese border to China for sex labor. That year was the darkest she had ever experienced. Many tears of pain and fear were shed. But she was able to run away with another Vietnamese woman, and together, they found their way home. Although Anh was now free, she was left with mental scares and vivid nightmares that haunted her at night. She didn’t dare leave home for fear of neighbors looking down on her. She couldn’t face the questions they would ask and life in her village became unbearable.

“I tried many ways to come back home, but it just wasn’t home anymore”, she said.

Two years after returning to her community, Anh was introduced to Hagar at the Yen Bai’s Women Union vocational training. She was provided safe accommodation, free meals, health care, counselling services and life skills training. When Anh first met with her Hagar mentors, she refused to open up to, unable to face her deep scars. Respecting her decision, Anh’s counselor stood by her, assisting and advising in any way needed. A few months passed and as Anh adjusted to her new life, she made friends with other clients like her who had undergone traumatic experiences. She began opening up to her counsellor and together, they explored how she could turn the page. With support of Hagar, Anh has found her values and inner strength that have empowered her to put the first steps towards a hopeful future.

Anh decided she wanted to become a hair dresser and began attending vocational training provided by L’Oreal. She excelled at this, graduating second out of 34 in her class. She was looking forward to opening her own salon, but life took an unexpected turn for Anh. Her parents put pressure for her to return home and marry a young man she barely knew. It was something she couldn’t escape from.

As Anh told her Hagar counselor at the time, “My husband is nice to me and to my parents but this marriage reminded me of what I had experienced in the past. I could not stand that feeling. And my husband was being very patient waiting for me to be ready, which made me feel even guiltier”

Anh’s counselor and her case manager worked closely with her through this transition period. Feeling empowered, Anh felt strong enough to face her parents. She wanted to pursue her studies so she could start her own business in the village. Her husband was very supportive, and Anh’s parents finally agreed for her to pursue her career. Through the assistance of Hagar partner organization REACH, Dan has not only received great training, she has also received close mentorship from another private salon owner who wanted to coach Anh personally and be her financial adviser.

A few years on and ANh is now happier than ever. She is doing very well psychologically and emotionally, living with her husband and his family who love her dearly and support her. They know about her past but empathise and take care of her. Anh also gets along well with people in the community. Her trafficking experience and the trauma that comes with it no longer affect her that much.

Considering where her story with Hagar began, Anh has come a long way. From wanting to give up on life, she is now a strong voice in her community, giving back to society by building up the local economy through her business.

“Thanks to Hagar, I have found many sweet homes on which I could rely and from which I could lead my own life independently and happily. I am looking forward to providing the best hair dressing services to the people I love, including Hagar staff!” Anh says happily.anh