Be

Sometimes it’s hard to see
Who you’re gonna be
So be the young, the brave, the powerful

– James Blunt, “The Greatest”

Ngoc hears a voice, and holds his breath.

He can’t see anything through the blanket that covers him. He feels the breath of Tam sleeping beside him; and no matter the noise from around them, nothing will ever wake Tam.

The voice calls again and Ngoc pulls the blanket from his face.

At first he sees the vast concrete bridge above him, the discarded bathtub beside him. Then he sees the young man kneeling at his feet, calling softly. A friendly face, but a stranger. And a stranger is always a threat.

Ngoc came to the city last year to find a job. At first everything worked out great, but his boss kept delaying his salary. Finally it became clear he was never going to get paid, and when he raised his voice, he was fired.

Now he’s sleeping under a bridge, ashamed to tell his family that he has nothing to show for his months away from home. Every noise startles him. Even when he wakes, he’s exhausted. Fear is a heavy burden to shoulder, and the shame he carries feels like rocks shackled to his feet.

Ngoc never thought of himself as a homeless person. He’s not a street kid. He has a family, a village up in the mountains. At home he is the funny guy. He jokes with his mates. He talks to the village leader as an equal, looks after the ducks in his spare time, enjoys the solace and the silliness of his feathered friends.

How can he let his parents know that he failed? That he’s sleeping on dirt with no money in his pocket? That he’s afraid of everything around him? This wasn’t what he dreamt about as a child.

It’s now mid afternoon on a cold and rainy Saturday, and the man waking him is offering warm food and a place to stay. He’s a social worker, scanning the streets for young people like Ngoc. Is this finally a chance for escape from the sleepless terror of having nothing and nobody? Is this the moment that will light a path for Ngoc to return to his family, where he is loved and safe?

The life of street kids in Hanoi – and in every town and city around the planet – is harder than any of us can appreciate unless we have been there ourselves. At Blue Dragon, half our Street Outreach team were once homeless themselves, just like the social worker who met Ngoc on Saturday.

Children in our world aren’t homeless because of a lack of resources. There’s more than enough to go around.

Sometimes it’s abuse or neglect that forces them to the streets. Other times, it’s not much more than a sequence of bad luck or misfortune.

But it shouldn’t happen. It doesn’t need to happen. It’s simply not right.

Ngoc and his friend Tam are going to be OK. Blue Dragon has met them and can help them get home.

Over the coming days and nights we’ll spend time with them, helping them work through their fears and keeping them safe until they are ready to return to their families. And once they’re back in their village we can keep helping so they get the education and training they need, and then a good job where they won’t be exploited again.

Every child, every person, needs someone willing to stand up for them. It’s not only for governments or for charities to make a difference. This is something we all can do: be the helping hand that we would wish for ourselves. The shoulder to cry on. The understanding smile on the hardest of days.

We don’t have to be overwhelmed by all the world’s hardships. We can start where we are, play our small part, reach out to the person before us. Be the change we wish to see, as someone once said.

Imagine what our world could be.

Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation rescues kids in crisis.

Whatever

Every person we meet at Blue Dragon has a unique need to overcome their crisis. So how can we respond and get people’s lives back on track?

During the week, Long came to visit Blue Dragon.

He’s 23 now, but when we first met him he was 14. He and his sister were sleeping alone on the street. They were cold and hungry and had smeared themselves with mud to stop the mosquitos biting them.

Although he’s a young adult and fairly independent, Long has faced some crises in the past year. His wife died suddenly in an accident, leaving him a single father of a little boy. Around the same time, he brought his 12 year old brother to live with him to escape a difficult home situation and make sure he was cared for properly.

For a young man, he has taken on a lot of responsibility.

And recently he’s had a few more setbacks. Just before the Lunar New Year, he lost his motorbike and then he lost his job.

Sometimes, everything seems to go wrong at once.

When Long came by the Blue Dragon centre and we heard about him losing his bike, we reached out to some friends in Hanoi asking if anyone could donate one. Within hours, not one but TWO motorbikes had been offered.

Long is now mobile again. He’ll be able to take his son and brother to their schools, and will soon return to work as a delivery driver.

There’s an expression we sometimes use to describe Blue Dragon’s work. Some other people and organisations use it too: Whatever it takes.

It’s a bold and evocative statement, but it’s easy for this slogan to become just a cliché. And then in the end, it’s simply: Whatever.

From day to day at Blue Dragon, though, that’s the guiding principle. Whatever it takes.

Long needs a motorbike so he can work and get his family to school. So our mission was to find him one, and thanks to some very generous people he now has wheels!

Other families we meet have needed their houses rebuilt – like Trang up in the mountains bordering China. She was trafficked and enslaved for a month before escaping. When we helped her return home, we saw that she was living in extreme poverty and simply was not safe in her house.

Trang’s house didn’t keep the cold or the rain out, and offered her no protection or comfort.

Again, we called out for help and people donated. Trang now has a new house.

Just two weeks ago, Bao needed surgery to recover from an accident. Friends around the world donated… and Bao is now home and healing nicely.

More often, the help that people need is less tangible: counselling, crisis accommodation, legal advocacy, or help to pay the rent.

Sometimes it’s short-term and sometimes it will be over a decade.

Everyone’s need is different, and there’s no single way to solve all the world’s problems.

Whether it’s a motorbike for Long or a house for Trang – or counselling, schooling, or anything at all – Blue Dragon is here to do whatever it takes.

We can’t stop supporting someone after a fixed period of time, or when they reach a certain age. We can’t narrow down the scope of our help to just a few specific needs. We can’t insist that everyone who comes our way fits into the box that we’ve built for them.

Because life isn’t like that.

Life is messy and complicated and rarely works out the way we think it will. And that’s OK.

The people who support Blue Dragon understand this, which is why so many children and young adults have received help so far. Everything that we have achieved so far is only possible because of people around the world who believe that we all deserve a fair chance in life.

And because of that belief – the belief that we must do whatever it takes – Long, Trang and Bao, and many thousands just like them, have a whole new chance in life.

Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation does whatever it takes to rescue kids in crisis.

The Tet Dream

Close to Lunar New Year, people trapped in slavery take their life in their hands calling for help to be rescued. Tram is one young woman who took that risk.

It’s 2 years now since Tram came home.

She was 17 when she was trafficked to China, and 20 when she returned to Vietnam.

At the time she was tricked into thinking she was going on a shopping trip with a friend, Tram was a school student planning for her future. Over the next three years, she was sold as a bride – twice – and endured beatings and torture that she will never be able to forget.

Tet – Vietnam’s celebration of Lunar New Year – marks the anniversary of Tram’s rescue from slavery. Most years, Blue Dragon sees a significant spike in calls for help as Tet draws near. Girls and women being held against their will far from home are more likely to take the risk of calling for help, as Tram did, dreaming that they can be home with their families for this important, deeply cultural, tradition.

Calling for help can be dangerous – deadly so. Traffickers and the men who buy these women have much to lose should their victim escape and report to police. Anyone caught trying to escape may be beaten, tied up, and resold. Some young women have been killed at the hands of their traffickers for daring to try for freedom.

Tram took that risk, and her gamble paid off. Blue Dragon found her, created an escape plan, and assisted her return to Vietnam. It took 10 days, and every moment was terrifying for Tram until she was finally back in her father’s arms.

Getting girls and women home for Tet has never been as difficult as this year. COVID-19 inevitably means restrictions on travel within and between countries. Lockdowns mean that people living in slavery have fewer opportunities to steal a moment on a telephone or slip down the street unnoticed.

For those we have brought back, mandatory quarantine awaits – a further delay of 2 weeks before that final journey home is possible.

Tram thinks of herself as one of the lucky ones. She knows that there are many more young people like herself who are still trapped. It’s not just that they can’t escape; right now, even calling for help is more of a life-endangering feat than usual.

In time, those calls will come. They will be too late for this year’s Tet celebrations, but they’ll never be too late for the chance of a new start.

And when those calls come, we must be ready.

P.S. Very special thanks to everyone who donated last week in support of Bao. He’s now through his surgery and back at home healing. Your donations paid his bill, and there’s enough remaining to continue supporting Bao and his son over the next months until Bao is able to get back to work.

Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation rescues kids in crisis.

A helping hand

Now a young father working hard to raise his son, Bao is a Blue Dragon “old boy.” And he’s facing a new crisis in his life.

When Blue Dragon was just starting out, Bao was one of the kids who dropped by our centre every day.

A quiet and gentle boy, he lived on a floating house on Hanoi’s Red River. His life has always been hard, but he never let that show. No matter what was going on in his world, Bao always had a smile to share and he never, ever complained.

Now he’s a young adult and has a child of his own, soon to go to school. We still see Bao every now and then; he works as a delivery driver, scooting around the city on his motorbike.

He still lives on the river, and life is still difficult. Bao has no legal documentation – no birth certificate or proof of his own existence. This means that he can’t get a motorbike license, and he has no health insurance or bank account or any way to properly enroll his son in school.

Even though Blue Dragon has helped more than 13,000 people get their legal documentation, Bao’s is one of the few cases we haven’t yet resolved – it’s that complicated.

And now Bao is facing a new crisis.

Just before Christmas he was in a road accident, through no fault of his own. His arm was broken and his whole body scratched up quite badly. He hasn’t been able to work since then, so as a single dad he’s been doing it tough.

Because he doesn’t have any health insurance, Bao didn’t receive proper medical treatment for the broken arm. Earlier this week, with the arm still causing tremendous pain, he came to Blue Dragon to ask for help.

Bao at his family home on the Red River.

People often ask us: What’s our cut-off age for helping the kids? The truth is, we don’t have any arbitrary limits to stop caring. If someone genuinely needs help, we try to find a way.

So a social worker went to the hospital with Bao, and the news was terrible.

Bao needed fairly major surgery to fix the arm. And it would cost more than $3,000. More than Bao could pay in 10 years.

Without the surgery, Bao would be disabled. He would never have proper use of the arm, and we know that would mean he could never hold down a job. This would be devastating for Bao, and would force his child into a life of hardship too.

The Blue Dragon social worker was able to find the right people in the hospital to help. When he explained Bao’s situation in detail, the hospital agreed to help in every way they could – cutting costs on everything. But still, the bill would be about $1,300.

Blue Dragon will help with this – right now we’re asking for donations to pay the cost of Bao’s surgery, and if we happen to raise more than that we’ll put it to the cost of schooling for his son. Every contribution to this will be appreciated – whether it’s $10 or $100, it will help a lot.

For a young man like Bao, doing his best and raising his son in pretty tough circumstances, life has never been easy.

We all face crises at different points of our lives, and most of the time we can get through on our own. But no matter where we were born or how good life has been to us, sometimes we all need a helping hand, like Bao does right now.

If you would like to help Bao through this crisis, please donate at www.bluedragon.org/donate

The businessman

Huy survived a year as a street kid and turned his life around against the odds. The COVID crisis means he once again fears for his future.

Huy is the sort of young man that any parent would be proud of.

Now in his early 20s, he has his own small business supplying car parts to garages all around Hanoi.

He works 7 days a week, often starting before sunrise and finishing late at night. Building up the business has been slow going; every day he’s out trying to find new customers and source new products. Some nights he skips dinner to save time and money – he’s just so determined to make his business a success.

Huy dreams of having a thriving company and employing young people from Blue Dragon to work alongside him. Because Huy himself was once one of the children we helped through a perilous time.

Huy dearly loves his parents, but became homeless at age 13 to escape the extreme poverty that had crippled his family. Within days of arriving in Hanoi, he was met by a pimp who offered shelter and food, only to abuse him and then sell him to others.

When Blue Dragon met Huy, he was trying to break free from the ring of men who were abusing him. He had found work on building sites and at night he slept in an abandoned field. He was desperate for someone to care for him.

Huy was sleeping rough on the streets of Hanoi when Blue Dragon met him.

With some counselling and care and a safe place to stay, Huy was soon ready to get back to school.

Going into business was always his dream, so as soon as he was old enough and able, he took out a loan from the bank and started up his company.

Then COVID-19 hit. Huy came close to losing everything as businesses closed and overnight he lost all of his customers.

When Vietnam’s lockdown ended, Huy went straight back to work. Day by day he built up his network, meeting his old contacts and slowly the market returned almost to normal.

And now, Vietnam is suddenly back in the midst of a COVID outbreak.

At the start of the week, there had been no community transmission for almost 2 months. By Sunday, about 200 people were believed to be infected.

With the Lunar New Year holiday, Tet, just a couple of weeks away, everyone is worried. For Vietnamese people, Tet is more than just a holiday. It’s a week of family reunions and a time for observing important traditions and customs.

Everyone is hoping that the outbreak can be confined in time for Tet. Schools have been closed in some cities – including Hanoi – and the streets are eerily quiet.

For Huy, the coming days will determine whether his business once again faces disaster, or whether this time will be different.

There’s no person on the planet who hasn’t been impacted by this pandemic, but the poorest and most vulnerable have been hit the hardest. For a young man like Huy, working so hard to make something of his life and wanting to help others along the way, the virus is truly devastating.

Blue Dragon helped Huy through the first lockdown last year. We made sure he had enough to eat and could pay the rent; we even lent him an old motorbike so he could work as a delivery driver while his business was closed.

This time around, whether or not there’s a lockdown, Huy will need help once again. Many of the young people in our care, who are at school or university or are already in jobs, will just need that little extra support to get them through the coming weeks, even if the latest outbreak is contained as we all hope.

If nothing else, the COVID pandemic has taught us how much we rely on each other; how when we work together, we can get through even the darkest days.

More dark days may yet be ahead. If we all stand together, we can face them.

If you want to help young people through this crisis, a donation to Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation will go a long way and be greatly appreciated.

Behind the story

Coping with trauma and crisis, a 14 year old street kid finds hope for the future.

The first time I saw him, Tan was standing alone on a street staring into nothing.

He was down the road from the Blue Dragon centre, and everything about him signaled a child in distress. His face showed no expression; his shoulders slumped forward. His arms hung limply by his side.

Just 14 years old, Tan had been neglected and abandoned by his family, forcing him to leave home. Once on the streets of Hanoi, he was abused repeatedly by pedophiles who traded him like an object.

Street kids in Vietnam, living under a bridge.

Once he was with Blue Dragon, Tan’s healing took years of care, counselling, and legal representation to find justice against those who had harmed him. Today he is a very different young man to the boy I first saw on the street. He has a job and a circle of great friends; he has started rebuilding the relationship with his parents; and his eyes shine with hope and joy.

Last week, Tan joined in Blue Dragon’s annual Tet celebration, called Tet Awards; we shared some photos of this on Facebook on Sunday. We hold this party for children in the lead-up to Lunar New Year, and many of our ‘old’ boys and girls come back to see us.

Tet Awards is one of the few big events we hold; our work is much more focused on dealing with day to day crisis than with organising ceremonies and parties.

In fact, Tan inspired the creation of this very blog at a Tet Awards party several years ago. Looking out over the crowd and thinking how much his own life had changed since he met Blue Dragon, Tan shared his astute reflection: Life is a long story.

For kids like Tan, this annual event has a significance beyond it being a great night. Dressing up, meeting old friends and enjoying hours of singing and dancing takes the kids away from the hardships of their daily lives.

The delightful chaos and laughter of a children’s party will never replace the need for long-term care, shelter, legal advocacy and psychological therapy. But a moment to forget the pain and turn instead to friendship and the simple joys of life is a precious moment indeed.

Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation rescues kids in crisis while advocating for greater legal protections and policies. You can read more of Tan’s story and how we changed Vietnamese law to protect boys here.

Leap to freedom

Attempting to escape from slavery is an act of extraordinary courage. For Hoa, the scars of her ordeal will live with her forever… but she will not let them define her.

Hoa was not yet 17 when she was trafficked.

How it happened is a very familiar story. She was facing hard times. Someone she knew offered to help. She left home thinking she was on her way to start a new job, only to find it was a trick.

What happened next is even more devastating.

Hoa found herself in China, sold twice before eventually being sold to a man with an intellectual disability. He wanted a wife so he could have a child, and for him that’s all that Hoa was: a vessel for a baby.

In the 6 months that followed, life was hell. Hoa had no chance to escape. She was locked into an apartment in an unknown city. She knew nobody, and had no way to call for help.

When Hoa could take it no more, she made a breathtaking decision. She jumped from the apartment, 2 storeys high, determined to either have freedom, or death.

Hoa survived, but she was severely injured. The fall damaged her spine, leaving her unable to move the lower part of her body. The pain was unimaginable, but her captor didn’t want to seek medical help – because he didn’t want to pay the expense. Instead, he took her back upstairs and kept her for another 4 months before finally admitting her to hospital.

In the safety of the hospital, Hoa was able to try again for freedom. The staff realised something terrible had happened and called the police. Now Hoa was safe from her captor; but she was not yet home. It would be another year, following extensive treatment and making statements to police from her hospital bed, before she could finally return to Vietnam.

Blue Dragon assisted with Hoa’s return, and since then have continued working with her. But how can anyone heal from such a traumatic episode?

Hoa is now fully reliant on her wheelchair for mobility. She will never walk again.

And the memories of the horror she experienced – tricked by a friend, sold into a waking nightmare, leaping from the building, then left for months to lay motionless with a serious spinal injury instead of receiving immediate treatment – will never go away.

In her darkest days, Hoa showed extraordinary courage by jumping for her freedom. This same courage has carried her through the months of psychological and physical therapy, wheelchair training, and learning to live independently with her disability… until finally Hoa was ready to return to her studies.

Hoa practicing her IT skills

Hoa’s story doesn’t end there. Because this week, she has started a whole new chapter in life: her very first job.

When she left home at age 17, that was all she wanted. Employment. An income. A chance to live a life free from poverty.

Someone took advantage of her need, and the impact on Hoa’s life was catastrophic. But she isn’t going to let that stop her.

She now works in an IT firm. It’s an entry-level job in a company that has great policies for employing people with disabilities. They hired her because she’s smart, brave, and beams with optimism about the future.

At times Hoa’s situation seemed impossible. She could see no way out. To overcome this as she has is an incredible feat of bravery.

Life will never be what it could have been. But it will be what she makes it.

Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation rescues children from crisis.

Rescue

Blue Dragon has reached the milestone of 1,000 rescues of people from slavery. But the early days of our anti-trafficking work did not have such a promising start…

All of us felt helpless.

Seventeen-year old Chi had been missing for months. Until the day she vanished, she had been a familiar face at Blue Dragon’s Hanoi drop-in centre.

Now she had made contact in a call for help to a friend. But the only new information we had was that she was in China.

For days we talked and speculated. What could be done? Who might be able to help? We reported all we knew to the police, but “somewhere in China” is not enough information to start an international search for a missing person.

At this time, Blue Dragon already had some experience with human trafficking. Since 2005 we had been finding and rescuing children who had been trafficked within Vietnam, from rural to urban areas where they were being put to work. And even in our work with street children, we sometimes had to go in search of kids who had gone missing.

After a few days, we reached a decision. We decided to send a small team to China to check out a town on the border. Someone had advised us that this town was a likely location, as it was known for having illegal brothels with young Vietnamese women. And we knew that Chi must be close to the border, so it was worth a try.

The story of that first rescue has been told in other places: how the staff found Chi within hours; how they helped her and another girl to escape; how they ended up running for their lives from the traffickers but ultimately returning with Chinese police to set free 4 more girls.

These were hardly auspicious beginnings, but from that first cross-border operation Blue Dragon is now routinely bringing girls and women home – and sometimes boys and men – who have been trafficked and sold. Our work evolved quite slowly at first, but in recent years has gathered pace.

These days we are still rescuing people trafficked within Vietnam, as well as people trafficked across the border into China – and sometimes Myanmar as well.

A young woman prepares to cross from China to Vietnam following her rescue from slavery.

This week Blue Dragon announced that we have reached a significant milestone. We’ve now rescued 1,000 people from trafficking. You can see some analysis of this achievement in this article on the website.

Reaching the 1,000 mark doesn’t mean we’re taking a break. Right now, we have 45 more cases that we’re working on. And 16 court cases following from rescues we’ve already completed. So there’s plenty more to do.

Blue Dragon will keep going, we’ll keep rescuing people. In part we can do this because of you – because of the people who donate money, whether it’s a gift to a fundraising appeal or a monthly donation or a sponsorship. It all helps and it’s all invaluable.

It’s also fair to say that we can keep going because of the extraordinary people who work alongside me here at Blue Dragon. There are many unsung heroes in this work, so our anti-trafficking coordinator Luong Le (herself one of our unsung heroes) has taken the time to share some stories of the women and men involved at different levels of Blue Dragon’s rescues and after-care.

Article: “We Came Across Trafficking By Accident And Committed To End It By Choice”

Take a few minutes to read these snippets. These are the stories of people on the front line making our world a safer place from human trafficking.

You will be inspired.

Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation rescues children from crisis.

Old Boys, New Year

A year-end wedding brought together a crowd of Blue Dragon ‘old boys’, whose journey reminds us that there are always better days to come.

Blue Dragon’s year finished with a wedding.

This was a particularly joyful event, with kids and staff heading out to the countryside to take part in the ceremony. The groom was a Blue Dragon staff member, and not only that; he is one of our ‘Old Boys’.

Diep was one of the original Blue Dragon boys back in 2002, when we were just beginning. He came to the weekly football games for street kids and joined the English classes, and then headed out to the streets where he worked shining shoes.

He was only 14, but he carried the burden of supporting his family who lived in poverty. They couldn’t afford to send him to school, so he volunteered to go and work in the city.

When we opened our first shelter, in 2003, Diep was one of the 6 teens who lived there. When he was old enough, he started working in a restaurant. Within a few years he returned to Blue Dragon as staff to help look after the children we were caring for.

Diep in 2003, with a friend.

He’s been on the social work team ever since, assisting street kids and helping to run the weekly football games that still take place (over 3,000 games so far!). Diep has a quiet, gentle way about him that makes children feel safe and cared for.

His wedding on the final weekend of 2020 was a cause of great celebration. And of course, many attendees were young men who had been a part of Blue Dragon at the time Diep was ‘one of the kids’.

Diep and his wife Chuyen at their wedding, December 2020.

All are in the late 20s and early 30s now. Most are married and some have children of their own. Their lives are in stark contrast to when we first met them, working on the streets of Hanoi hoping to make enough money to get through each day. Most survived by shining the shoes of strangers for a few cents.

Tuan was there; he flew up from southern Vietnam where he works as a chef. Binh has his own bakery. Hiep runs an electrical repair business, which is booming. Kieu owns a pizza and pasta restaurant. Nam is an executive chef for a large company. Thinh has a motorbike mechanic shop. Doan runs a building supplies company. Vi is a manager at Blue Dragon. Tinh has a mobile telephone shop. Duong works as a welder.

Each was a street kid at one time. Each has found his own way in life. For some, it took years of assistance from Blue Dragon to get them there. Others needed just a small boost to get them back to their family or back to school, and then they were on their way.

These occasions when they reunite and celebrate the success of ‘one of their own’ really are joyful days. Blue Dragon has grown and changed a lot since then; we now work with girls and boys around the country, and have expanded our scope to help people escape human trafficking.

But our vision of giving young people the care, assistance, and resources to overcome their hardship and build the life that they choose remains exactly the same.

At the end of a very difficult year, Diep and Chuyen’s wedding was the perfect way to finish off 2020.

Seeing all the ‘old boys’ gathered together served as a reminder that no matter the difficulties we face today, there is always hope for a better tomorrow.

The new year has arrived, so let’s get started on creating the ‘better tomorrow’ that we are all dreaming of.

Blue Dragon rescues children and young people in crisis.

The Extraordinary

2020 has been an extraordinary year. And because of extraordinary friends around the world, some of Vietnam’s most vulnerable people have made it through safe and well.

Giang was rescued just a few days before Christmas.

She was the second woman we rescued that day, and the photos sent through from the rescue team were heartbreaking.

Giang is in her mid 30s. She was trafficked as a high school student – about 20 years ago.

In the two decades she has been in slavery, Giang suffered a massive stroke that left her paralysed. When she finally was able to call for help, the Blue Dragon rescue team had the challenge of rescuing a woman who relies on a wheelchair for mobility.

Against the odds, they did it. Giang is back in Vietnam now.

The photos taken by the team along the way show how unimaginably complex this operation was. The final journey into Vietnam involved Giang being carried on the back of the rescuer, who physically carried her to safety.

Giang’s story – 20 years as a slave, surviving a stroke, and finally being carried home – is powerful and extraordinary.

But in a year when everything we know and understand was turned on its head, Giang’s story is not unique in its ‘extraordinariness’.

Throughout 2020, Blue Dragon has been confronted by many cases which in their own right were unbelievably difficult.

While Vietnam was in lockdown, Blue Dragon expanded its outreach to find street children and deliver food to anyone in Hanoi who was homeless.

Hanoi during lockdown; the city centre was eerily deserted.

Even while the border between Vietnam and China was closed, we were still rescuing women and girls who had been trafficked and enslaved.

A rescue operation during the CoronaVir

We rescued young men from an ethnic minority community who were about to be sold onto a fishing boat and taken to sea – possibly for the rest of their lives.

We helped kids like Tan, who has an unbelievable story of survival. As a child, he twice walked hundreds of kilometers on his own to get to safety and escape domestic violence and abandonment.

And when a record 13 storms hit central Vietnam, Blue Dragon was on the ground getting help to communities even as the rain was still falling.

Unprecedented storms, floods and landslides hit central Vietnam in October and November.

In a year where every person on the planet faced unimagined crisis, Blue Dragon has had plenty of our own extraordinary moments.

Looking back over 2020, one thing is clear. Blue Dragon’s supporters – both within Vietnam and around the globe – made the extraordinary happen, again and again, because you believed.

While the world was in crisis, you continued to donate. When the odds were against us, you sent messages of support and offers of help.

You believed in the extraordinary.

Because of this, there are now 77 children, women and men who have been set free from slavery since January 1. Another 219 came to Blue Dragon after being set free by police, and have received the care they needed to start their lives over.

Because you believed, Blue Dragon had the resources to help 153 homeless children through the year – a huge increase compared to 85 last year.

And despite all the hardship, still so much has been possible. We’ve been improving Vietnamese law to protect children who are in the legal system. We’ve taught ethnic minority women to grow corn without chemicals and seen them triple their yield. We’ve helped former street kids and trafficking survivors graduate high school and get into university.

All during the most extraordinarily difficult year.

So to all our friends around the world, we say thank you.

You believed in the extraordinary, and in doing so you’ve changed lives.

Now a whole new year is about to start. Imagine what more we can do in 2021…

Because even the extraordinary is within our reach.

Thank you for following LifeIsALongStory.Com in 2020. Your support of Blue Dragon’s work makes a real difference to the lives of young people in crisis.