ADAPT: Preventing trafficking through educational and vocational choices

ADAPT: Preventing trafficking through educational and vocational choices

Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$250,000 - $500,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

The chance of becoming enslaved in the modern world is 1.8 per 1000 people. This rate is much higher in Vietnam and increases every year. In the past 5 years, more than 6000 Vietnamese women and children have been identified as trafficking survivors and 22000 have been suspected to be trafficked for sexual exploitation.

ADAPT (An giang/Dong thap Alliance for the Prevention of Trafficking) is a project of Pacific Links Foundation (PALS) that seeks to combat the trafficking of Vietnamese young girls and women by enhancing their educational attainment and improving their vocational choices. PALS is the only organization based in Vietnam's remote border provinces to provide comprehensive services and a grassroots approach to reach communities most vulnerable to the trafficking threats.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

PALS operates ADAPT in the South at the Vietnam-Cambodia border and in the North at the Vietnam-China border, where more than 70% Vietnam’s trafficking cases occur. The trafficking victims often come from impoverished, remote, and porous regions. In these regions, families and the community are plagued with high unemployment, limited economic and educational opportunities, and low awareness about human trafficking. Many women and children in Vietnam’s border provinces and remote areas are trafficked into forced prostitution throughout Asia – including Cambodia, China, Thailand, and Malaysia – or into exploitative labour contracts in Malaysia, South Korea, Taiwan, China, Japan, as well as Thailand, Indonesia, the United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Russia, and the Middle East. There are also risks of bondage and servitude via internationally brokered marriages to China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, and increasingly South Korea. The communities that we serve come from marginalized populations where their voices and personal identities can easily be drowned out, making it difficult to reach out to them and raise awareness on the trafficking issue. However, we have been able to partner and collaborate with community stakeholders and government authorities due to our vast experience and knowledge on the ground, as well as, a dedicated staff who is always willing get to know community members and hear their concerns.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Asset-building is PALS's core commitment to power economic opportunities. We have proven that the prevention formula works against trafficking, but it must be comprehensive in its nature and work with all community/family partners. Unlike other scholarships that are one-time handouts, ADAPT employs a comprehensive, individualized, and targeted approach to assist recipients and their families. We work with community partners to identify the most at-risk young girls and women in regions with the highest rates of human trafficking to provide them with the highest level of long-term support. For each year until graduation from high school, each girl student receives academic support as well as an opportunity to attend summer camp, where she learns important safety and life skills through interactive workshops. Students and their families also participate in Family Day, which emphasizes the preventive role of education. Our comprehensive support continues in the 6 months after graduation during the job placement period, with the goals of increasing their job retention, helping to establish their independent lives, and promoting responsible fiscal habits. PALS builds close relationships with families to raise their awareness about trafficking risks and to encourage them to keep their daughters in school. A program manager with a large US funding organization said “[PALS] staff knows each family personally, looks after them like a set of den mothers and gives them a level of attention and commitment I have not seen in my ten years working in international development.”
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

ADAPT seeks to empower young girls and women by increasing their access to education and vocational training. Asset-building is at the core of our assistance. We believe that when young girls and women can build assets, they can improve their social and economic opportunities in the market economy. Moreover, higher levels of education and training leads to better economic prospects, which reduce their susceptibility to traffickers. One of the ADAPT activities is the Scholarship program, in which recipients can receive:  Long-term Academic Scholarships, providing young girls a chance to obtain a high school education from the 4th-6th grade. Scholarships cover tuition, health insurance, uniforms, books and school supplies, after-school tutoring, and summer programs.  Vocational Training Scholarships, enrolling at-risk young women from the ages of 16 to 24 in sustainable vocational training courses such as embroidery, craft/mat weaving, industrial sewing, childcare, cosmetology, and culinary skills. The training lasts for 3 months to 2 years, depending on age. ADAPT also supports the enrollment of these young women in the highly regarded and rigorous SaigonTourist’s 6-month culinary arts program in Ho Chi Minh City funded by Chefs Without Borders in San Francisco. They also receive a secondary vocational certification upon completion.  Job Placement & Individual Development Accounts (IDA), providing partial matching for savings to encourage fiscal responsibility, income supplements and rent subsidies during initial transition period into the work force.
About You
Pacific Links Foundation
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About Your Organization
Organization Name

Pacific Links Foundation

Organization Country

, CA, Santa Clara County

Country where this project is creating social impact
How long has your organization been operating?

More than 5 years

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What stage is your project in?

Operating for more than 5 years

Share the story of the founder and what inspired the founder to start this project

Diep Vuong was working to build a coalition of Vietnamese American NGOs with projects in Vietnam when MSNBC first broke their story about rescuing young Vietnamese girls from Cambodian brothels in 2003. Diep immediately organized a trip for 3-6 organizations to go with her to the Mekong Delta provinces in Vietnam in order to understand the scale and scope of the trafficking problem in the region.

When Diep asked for profiles about those who have been trafficked, all of the government officials said that the data was not available to understand the scope. Given her knowledge about poverty and cultural issues in Vietnam, she asked the officials if at least one thousand children would be at risk of trafficking each year in their province alone. An official calmly closed his notebook, looked up at Diep and said “Unofficially, yes.”

Appalled at the pervasiveness and the lack of action on the issue, Diep knew that she had to galvanize friends, families, and the community to start a project to address human trafficking, especially sex trafficking, in the region. Based on the numbers of under-age Vietnamese prostitutes arrested by the Cambodian government and based on the drop out and disappearing rates of young girls in the Mekong Delta region, she knew that the project couldn't wait because there were thousands of young women and girls who were already trafficked.

Since then, Diep bravely traverses shifting time zones and cultures to combat human trafficking. Diep passionately talks about PALS and ADAPT wherever and to whomever she meets.

Social Impact
Please describe how your project has been successful and how that success is measured

Over 711 young girls in Vietnam have received academic scholarships since the program's inception in 2005. In 2010 alone, PALS staff completed in-home visits to all 404 scholarship recipients; hosted our 3rd Annual Summer Camp for 100 scholarship recipients; organized 'Family Day' sessions for over 300 students, guardians, and community members; and 22 scholarship recipients graduated from high school, of which 9 are attending higher education.

PALS tracks the attendance and progress of each scholarship recipient through frequent communications with teachers and regular family visits. This close contact allows us to develop early intervention strategies where needed. Thanks to these efforts, our annual drop-out rate is 8.9%, which compares favorably with the 16% average drop-out rate in the U.S., and is particularly impressive considering that these students come from the most vulnerable populations of Vietnam.

Since 2005, we have supported vocational classes and provided life skills training for 838 young women. Thirty four (34) young women have successfully graduated from the culinary vocational program, some with the highest marks and most are currently working in the restaurant industry. In 2010, we supported 34 young women’s enrollments in the SaigonTourist culinary program. Twenty-three (23) participants have completed the program, some graduating with highest marks, and are now interning or working in various hotels and restaurants.

These are the individual impacts that we have made, but their families and community members also benefit by realizing that there is an alternative and viable economic option to trafficking. This is crucial in preventing future generations from becoming trafficking victims, and changing the economic norm.

How many people have been impacted by your project?

1,001- 10,000

How many people could be impacted by your project in the next three years?


How will your project evolve over the next three years?

In the next three years, the project aims to increase our assistance to 1,000 students in our academic scholarship program, and 200 women in secondary vocational schools. We will enhance response and intervention strategies to prevent school drop-out and trafficking incidences by partnering with local businesses and youth media venues to implement projects such as helping families with economic solutions via microloans.

We will also focus on developing our model to include longer-term training opportunities, continue our vocational training program in culinary arts for at-risk young women, and provide follow-up support to vocational training participants. PALS will also modify our model to the recently expanded project activities in the North at the Vietnam-China border region.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?

The project currently has a budget derived from various successful fundraising efforts. We have previously received grants from USAID, AusAID, IrishAid, Chef Without Borders, Ford Foundation, MAST Limited Brands, New Moon Foundation, as well as, numerous individual contributions. However, as we expand our services to more vulnerable populations, the financial stability and sustainability of PALS and its counter-trafficking project ADAPT depends on the success of our recently formulated 5-year strategic fundraising plan that includes fundraising through grants, community benefit luncheons and campus student activities, on-line and social media venues, and building up a strong base of at least 500 long-term core donors.

In addition to continuously seeking funding from foundations and grants, PALS will expand our grassroots reach and fundraise via community benefit luncheons, campus student activities, and on-line and social media venues. These are important secondary sources of funding and they reflect the investments from the community and youth members who are passionate about the issue of trafficking. We are also looking into e-commerce, businesses that could employ our past and current recipients, and standards of corporate social responsibility.

At our 10th Anniversary celebration in October 2011, PALS will launch an initiative to secure at least 500 long-term donors (those who contribute at least $1,000 annually), which will partially support our annual expenses.

Tell us about your partnerships

PALS partners with authorities at all levels of government in Vietnam (especially at border provinces), non-governmental and international organizations such as the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and United Nations Inter-Agency Project (UNIAP), community and media organizations, and local and corporate business entities for job placement and corporate funding support. For example, PALS has collaborated with local Departments of Social Evil Protection (DSEPs) to establish the first shelter in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta region for trafficking survivors returning from Cambodia. This work integrates and continues the assistance of organizations such as IOM and non-governmental organizations in Cambodia, thereby ensuring that survivors receive continuous support towards successful reintegration.

Additionally, through ADAPT, PALS has trained hundreds of local and provincial teams of the Women’s Union to conduct capacity-building and awareness-raising workshops to community members in remote villages. In 2010, these women advocacy groups reached over 4900 community members through more than 400 awareness campaigns. We are also currently exploring collaborations with for-profit companies to continue developing a corporate sponsorship program.

In partnership with West Virginia University and An Giang University, PALS has helped formulate the Social Work Summer Institute to offer training in practical skills for social workers supporting trauma victims. Building personal ties and exchanging good practices between professionals enable the region to better promote awareness, prevention, intervention, and reporting – thereby reducing trafficking. Since 2006, we have provided social work trainings to more than 400 government officials and social workers, including shelter workers from Cambodia.

Explain your selections

ADAPT has operated continuously since its establishment in 2005. As the project continues to grow, we have successfully sought funds from various sources.

Individuals, friends and family:
They provide private financial donations and in-kind donations. All staff and board members have contributed financially to the organization. Many volunteers have also given their money to support the work in which they believe. Past individual donors are also invited to pledge and become a long-term donor.

PALS has received funding from various foundations and organizations, including the Ford Foundation, Gerbode Foundation, New Moon Foundation, Center for Encouragement of Self-Reliance, and the Solstice Foundation.

As partners, East Meets West and the International Children Assistance Network have provided financial assistance since ADAPT’s inception in 2005.

Local businesses and corporations provide financial assistance as well as in-kind donations. We have received support from MAST Industries, Give2Asia, and Chef Without Borders.

International government:
In the past the ADAPT project has received funding from USAID, IrishAID, the Australian Consulate and the US Consulate to support our partnerships and programs.

Our program has the advantage of actively engaging many different social actors from all locations where we operate to provide support for our recipients. This allows our network to continually grow in the US, in other countries, and especially in Vietnam.

How do you plan to strengthen your project in the next three years?

To strengthen the vocational program, we will increase our network of local businesses to offer more vocational training options for our recipients. We have successfully reached out to corporations to obtain funding or instrumental support. In addition, PALS will partner with community and media organizations. For example, we will work with Muc Tim, the premier magazine for teenagers in Vietnam, to conduct and promote Summer Camp activities.

Further, we plan to partner with local authorities in border provinces to design and promote a pilot Early Response & Awards System where community members can immediately and confidentially notify local authorities of potential or known cases of trafficking or to provide corroborative evidence that may lead to the arrest and prosecution of traffickers. Each alert that leads to the prevention, arrest, or prosecution, will be awarded $1 million VND (approximately $50 USD). In remote villages and communities, preventable cases of trafficking occur because of the lack of community awareness and mechanisms to promptly alert local authorities. Partial funding has been secured from the Fund for the Encouragement of Self-Reliance (FESR) for this project.

Which barriers to employment does your innovation address?
Please select up to three in order of relevancy to your project.


Lack of skills/training


Lack of access to information and networks



Please describe how your innovation specifically tackles the barriers listed above.

PALS serves young women and girls with the highest risk of being trafficked, as they live in regions where low education, high unemployment and limited economic opportunities is commonplace. Scholarships are a way for these individuals and their families to gain an education, life skills and job training for better economic stability, which offers a safeguard against trafficking. Through our comprehensive services in conjunction with the scholarships, we have developed early intervention strategies where needed, lowering drop-out rates and providing skills, training, information on, and placements into vocational opportunities for the young women and girls.

Are you trying to scale your organization or initiative?
If yes, please check up to three potential pathways in order of relevancy to you.



Influenced other organizations and institutions through the spread of best practices


Enhanced existing impact through addition of complementary services

Please describe which of your growth activities are current or planned for the immediate future.

We are continuously expanding to other schools and remote border areas. In the next three years, we will provide academic scholarships to 500 additional students.

As one of the few, if not the only, organization in Vietnam implementing holistic counter-trafficking activities, we wish to maximize our grassroots advantage and push for prevention of this tragedy. We also hope to prove that direct on-the-ground work is possible, in spite of the hardship terrains, and is a critical adjunct to awareness and advocacy programs.

We proudly partner with businesses, universities, scholarship promotion associations, women’s union, and media entities for better awareness of the human trafficking issue and advocacy of counter-trafficking efforts.

Do you collaborate with any of the following: (Check all that apply)

Government, NGOs/Nonprofits, For profit companies, Academia/universities.

If yes, how have these collaborations helped your innovation to succeed?

PALS’ collaboration with all levels of governments, especially in remote areas, is necessary to address infrastructure and accountability issues and to develop a sustainable and feasible anti-human trafficking model. Moreover, our collaboration with international diplomatic missions in Vietnam keep the human trafficking diplomatic discourse cognizant of real and effective on-the-ground solutions.

Our work with NGOs/nonprofits such as IOM ensured that our model provided needed services that were not already being provided by other NGOs/nonprofits.

PALS’ work with countless students and professors have further developed and helped us implement outreach programs, as well as, building a capacity and interest in counter-human trafficking activities.