While interning for International Justice Mission, a human rights organization in Washington, D.C., Christine Nguyen happened to see Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice walking through the corridors of the Capitol building.
Instead of letting the Secretary of State pass her by, the Plan II/government/business honors/management student introduced herself and asked Rice what she was doing to end human rights violations in India and Asia.
“Secretary Rice assured me she was working with government leaders to support reforms,” Nguyen says. “There wasn’t time for her to offer many specifics, but I knew I couldn’t miss the opportunity to ask a few key questions.”
Nguyen smiles as she recalls the meeting, but her seemingly demure exterior can’t hide a fierce passion that has fueled her human rights advocacy work during her years at The University of Texas at Austin.
At the age of 19, Nguyen’s experience volunteering at an orphanage for sex-trafficking victims in Vietnam inspired her to found the Southeast Asian Children’s Coalition, an international non-profit organization that combats poverty and exploitation. For the past four years, the college student has been the coalition’s executive director.
“My parents told me my whole life that I’m lucky, but I didn’t know what that truly meant until I met Tau, a 12-year-old Vietnamese girl who escaped from the brothel where she was imprisoned as a sex slave,” Nguyen says.
Human trafficking, the recruitment of people—often children—for the purpose of exploitation, including prostitution, is a growing problem internationally, Nguyen explains.
The number of people being “trafficked” ranges from 500,000 to two million per year. It is a $5 to $9 billion-a-year industry, according to estimates by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
Nguyen returns to Vietnam each year and she has raised more than $60,000 for the Southeast Asian Children’s Coalition through grants and corporate contributions.