My name is Linhngo. I’m a woman of 35 years and I live in Vietnam. I was born in a poor family and had to work while still going to school: carrying water, picking coconuts and selling lottery tickets. Often I had to wake up at 2 in the morning to help my mother make jelly to sell in the market. I did very well at school, but my family became so poor that I had to give up school when I was 14. For three years I worked as a waitress in a restaurant. As a girl of 17 there was only one dream for me: making as much money as possible to help my mother.

A friend told me about Saigon, a city of grandeur, vibrancy and easy money. I went there. First I sold clothes, later I got a more comfortable job with better payment in a café during the day. In the night I worked in a bar, which meant I had to please the customers and drink endlessly. If I got drunk I had to vomit the alcohol out to continue drinking. I rented a room and stayed with some friends, who were all using drugs. Although my best friend warned me, I was reckless and started to use drugs myself. I was addicted in no time

When I joined the Club in 2009, I turned a page. I started to recognise my self-worth and rebuild my life

When one of my drug friends died of an overdose, I was really shaken up and barricaded myself at home for months. I tried hard to stop using drugs all by myself. That was the time when I found out I was pregnant. I was 23 years old and maternal instinct was the bell that woke me up. I adamantly cut all ties to drugs and friends who used drugs to avoid any negative impacts to my husband and child.

My man truly loved me, yet we divorced. After the divorce I continued to be addicted and unemployed and decided to do sex work. An outreach worker introduced me to a self-help group for people who use drugs, the Club. When I joined the Club in 2009, I turned a page. I started to recognise my self-worth and rebuild my life. I’m an outreach worker now. My trip to Australia, where SCDI invited me to participate in a dialogue about drugs and sex workers, nurtured a plan in me to repay. In 2012, a self-help group was founded and I became the leader. The Vietnamese network of sex workers was launched in the same year and I was a committee member.

I am proud to keep my identity as a poor girl from the waterfront. The only thing I want now is a simple but happy life, no matter how late it is. After the ups and downs with drugs, I thought my life would be an endless downward spiral, but the love from my family and friends have helped me to stand up where I fell. I am now able to say: I am very happy.

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