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Believe

Early on Wednesday morning, January 18 2017, Nguyen Tong Tu lost his life in a motorbike accident on the cold dark streets of Hanoi. Tu was 15 years old. His life was scarred by accident, family breakdown, and angst. But here at Blue Dragon, he was known as a wonderful boy with an angelic face that lit up with joy when he was loved. Tu was only with us a short time; he first came to Blue Dragon in May through our Outreach team, who met him on the streets…

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Night of heroes

So I failed to write my blog last week. I had every intention of waking up early on Monday and writing about events of the previous week. Instead I was awoken by a call from a Blue Dragon lawyer some time around 5. The police had arrested a Vietnamese man suspected of abusing underage boys: to our knowledge, this is the first time that such an arrest has been made without our direct involvement. That’s a fantastic development in itself. The man – who has yet to be charged, so…

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Countdown

New Years Eve is party time around the world. Even the edict against fireworks in Vietnam didn’t dampen anybody’s enthusiasm; live music and street parties filled the cities and towns until the midnight countdown began. For 2 young Vietnamese women, another countdown was taking place last night. After a year enslaved in central China, An (aged 16) and Cuc (22) were recently able to contact their families in southern Vietnam. Each had fallen victim to a human trafficking ring which offers desperately poor families the promise of employment, but instead…

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The Gift

My last Australian Christmas was in 2001. Since then, I’ve been in Hanoi for every Christmas Day, including today. I’m not a very traditional type of person, but there is one tradition I’ve kept for the last 15 years: a Christmas meal with the Blue Dragon kids. Although I’m far from my family in Australia, there’s a real joy in spending the day with my Blue Dragon family here in Vietnam. I still vividly remember that first Christmas in Hanoi, when Blue Dragon was so young we didn’t even have a…

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Family time

This morning I’m headed to a wedding. Thai was one of the very early Blue Dragon kids; we met him about 12 years ago, when we were just starting out in Hanoi. His family lived in a tiny makeshift house by an open sewer and his brother was in prison. Thai had a pretty rotten start to life, and spent some time in a reform school as a teenager. Despite everything, he’s made a good life for himself. He’s worked as a baker, a barman, and now as a security…

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Sooner

Manh looked like a little man. He’s 14 years old and very small for his age, but my first impression was that he could have been anywhere between 10 and 40. He’d been on the streets of Hanoi for a few months, living in internet cafes and begging for money when he first arrived. It wasn’t long before some pimps had their hooks into him, and soon he was introduced to a much older man who took him to a hotel for sex. By the time I met him, he…

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A change of title

In a staff training session recently, our Communications Manager asked us to think of what our job title really should be, given what we actually do at work. It was a light-hearted but revealing activity. Someone said that his title should be ‘Batman’ as he is a protector of homeless children. Another described herself as a “Bridge,” because she brings young people in trauma back to safety and connects them with their families. When it came to my turn, I said that I consider myself the CPB of Blue Dragon:…

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Recovery

Thuong married on Sunday. It was a beautiful wedding; she had long dreamt of this day and her family worked hard to make it perfect. Vietnamese weddings are packed with specific customs and traditions, all intended to ensure the marriage is a success, and Thuong’s family put in an extra effort to ensure nothing would be overlooked. Because Thuong’s wedding was a little special. It was just over a year ago that she made it home, after being trafficked and sold into a forced marriage in China. She was 14 years…

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Somebody should do something

Last week’s blog created some discussion around the issue of personal responsibility: what each of us can (and should) do when we see injustice and suffering. There’s no shortage of either injustice or suffering in our world, and nor is there going to be any time soon. Whether it’s Australia’s treatment of refugees, or the apparent rise in hate crimes against minorities in America, or the ongoing tragedy unfolding before our eyes in Syria, or the fact that the past 5 years are the hottest 5 years ever recorded, the…

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Be angry

Every day I meet children and young adults who have been through extraordinary trauma. If they lived in the west, their stories would be front page in the newspapers. There’s one story that always stands out to me as among the worst; and it’s one of the foundational stories behind why Blue Dragon began, back in 2003. Even before Blue Dragon was created, I was volunteering alongside Vietnamese and international friends to help out street kids we were meeting in Hanoi. We had no real plan to form a charity. We…

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