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Church club aids former sex workers

Fresh start means escape from oldest profession

Church club aids former sex workers
Former sex workers selling fruits on streets for a living reporter, Nha Trang city

August 22, 2011

A church association is helping sex workers and their children in the city of Nha Trang to start a new life. “We are deeply grateful to them for giving us an opportunity to start afresh and earn people’s respect,” says 41-year-old Vo Thi Thu, one of the beneficiaries of the project. The association, known as the Hoa Bien (Sea Flower) Club gave Thu three million dong (US$150) in 2009. Although she has little education and no other work experience, she was able to use the money to start a business selling fruit at a local market. “I have a 12-year-old daughter who was raped in our lodgings while I was away,” she says. “She’s been given medical treatment, issued with a birth certificate and she’s now supported by a local Catholic family. I’m so happy about that.” Marie Nguyen Thi Phuc is a social worker who also leads the Hoa Bien Club. “We have 20 club members and between us we provide the money for 30 former sex workers so they can set up small businesses for a living and escape from prostitution. We also help the women to learn vocational skills and give them free health care,” she says. The coastal city of Nha Trang attracts a large number of tourists and has an estimated 3,000 women plying their trade as sex workers. “Our volunteers go round local restaurants, bars and brothels and encourage prostitutes to leave them and give up that way of life.” Thanks to funding from Family Health International, a US-based NGO, she says, “we’re also able to give medical health and material support to the women’s children and look after them.” As a result of the association’s efforts, Phuc says that “three of the former sex workers have converted to Catholicism since their return to normal life.”
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