Coming to Life: A Story from Ella’s

Linh is a survivor of trafficking, supported by one of our long-standing frontline partners, Ella’s. Today, she is building a safe life for her children and is a help and inspiration for others. Linh has overcome so much to get to this point – here’s her story.

Linh was born in a remote part of Vietnam. Her parents died when she was a child so Linh was cared for by her grandmother, but poverty was a huge challenge.

When Linh was in her late teens, someone came to the village offering work away from home. Linh’s grandmother agreed, thinking it would provide Linh with a better life. Tragically, the promises of safe work were lies, and Linh was trapped.

Linh was trafficked from Vietnam to Europe, arriving many months later in the UK. She was packed into lorries, boats, trucks, and was sexually abused and exploited throughout the journey. This was in 2010, but Linh still can’t talk about those times without tears.

When she arrived in London, Linh was terrified of what would happen next. She managed to jump from a truck, and ran for her life.

Fighting to stay free
Linh was traumatised and she didn’t speak English, but she was determined to stay free. She managed to find the police, and was taken to an immigration centre and later to an organisation working with survivors. They helped Linh join the government system for people claiming to have been trafficked.

Linh started to go to a local church, where she met another Vietnamese survivor of trafficking – a man called Bao. They fell in love and set up home together as best they could.

Ella’s met Linh in 2015 – the organisation supporting her was closing down, and Ella’s was just starting up. A couple of years had passed, and Linh and Bao were as committed to one another as ever, and now had two much-loved children. But they were struggling.

Linh and Bao had submitted claims for asylum in order to stay in the UK, but the process is complex and can take years. In the meantime, the family were living in one small room. They weren’t allowed to work while their claims were being processed, and were struggling to get by on the small asylum seeker allowance.

Mental health was a huge challenge for Linh and Bao. Not only were they still traumatised from their experiences of trafficking and exploitation, they were anxious for their children and terrified of being sent back to Vietnam.

‘I felt that, if I went back to Vietnam, I would die young like my mother, and leave my own daughters at risk of going through the same as I did,’ says Linh

The final push
Ella’s supported Linh and Bao to access the mental health support they needed urgently in order to get through the wait and support their children.

They also provided day to day support to help them get to grips with life in the UK. Appointments concerning their asylum claims were all over the country, and Ella’s helped cover the cost of their transport. They also attended multiple solicitor appointments, and court with Linh, who found it deeply painful to be asked to talk about her past.

‘Through the work of Ella’s, my life became better, and I became strong,’ says Linh.

Finally, both Linh and Bao were granted asylum, and told they could stay in the UK. The very first thing they did was to find work. They were determined to be self-sufficient. Ella’s were on-hand as they searched and applied for jobs, and got started as soon as they could. The next thing they did was to invite the staff from Ella’s over for some home-cooked Vietnamese food, to celebrate.

Ella’s helped them find more suitable accommodation and move in, and enrol their children in education. Finally, Linh could see the bright light at the end of a long, difficult seven years.

A brighter future
Today, Linh and Bao are living in the north of England, where expenses are lower than in London. They are both still in work and their daughters, now four and six, are settled in school.

Ella’s keep in contact with the family as friends, but they no longer need the support of Ella’s as an organisation. They are able to build a safe life and live independently – this is our goal for every survivor.

Linh gives thanks every day for all those who have helped her, and is committed to being someone who now helps others. Already, she has come alongside three other Vietnamese survivors of trafficking, helping them find the right help, welcoming them into her home and sharing friendship and advice. ‘I want to help others like Ella’s helped me!’ she says.

Not only is Linh generous with her friendship, she is proof for other survivors, and everyone else, that it’s possible to overcome exploitation and build a safe life on the other side. Go Linh, you are amazing.

Together, the TRIBE community has raised a staggering £155,000 to support Ella’s and their outstanding work. We are inspired and incredibly proud to support the organisation as they continue to grow; delivering the highest level of holistic long-term support for the survivors of modern slavery and human trafficking, for as long as they need to regain their freedom.