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What if?

During the week I visited British International School in Hanoi, and was talking to their Grade 8 class about charity, charities, and the idea that we all have a role to play in caring for our world. It’s always the Question Time that I most enjoy, because there’s nothing so insightful as the question of a child. And this class didn’t let me down. One of the girls asked me something quite profound: What if I hadn’t started Blue Dragon? Where would I be? And what about all the kids we’ve…

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Coffee

Early on Saturday morning, my phone buzzed to life with a message from Ly. Having been on the road for the past month (hence my severe lack of blog posts!) I spent much of the past week catching up with the team at Blue Dragon as well as the kids at our centre. Ly, however, was not someone I had expected to see. For the past 2 years Ly has been working in Ho Chi Minh City as a barista. He’s 26 years old now, but I have known him…

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Talented

Bac’s Facebook page has gone into overdrive. Since late last week, he has been uploading photo after photo of himself and all his Blue Dragon friends at the annual Blue’s Got Talent gala in our Hanoi centre. It’s a brilliant affair. The lunch room is converted into a theatre for an afternoon, and the girls and boys get up to perform all kind of acts that they have been practicing for weeks (or longer!) to impress their friends – and a panel of judges. Some dance, some sing. This year, some…

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A long walk

On Sunday, I took part in a marathon walk. Forty-two kilometers along the Merri Creek in Melbourne, Australia, to raise money for the work of Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation. About 30 people took part, and although many of us had never met before we were united by our concern for the fate of Vietnamese children. We all had sponsors, and so we set out in the morning to accomplish a goal that’s small on a global scale, but significant for our own lives. As we were walking, 4 teenage boys…

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Humanity in development

I’ve given more than a few speeches in my lifetime. I truly enjoy the challenge of gauging an audience and adapting my message to meet their needs and interests; many times I have been standing on the stage before I have made a final decision about what I will say. So far this has always worked for me, but last week I thought that maybe I had pushed it too far. I had been invited to speak to 900 university students from around the world at the UN Centre in…

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A 10 year journey

This week marks 10 years since Blue Dragon first went to China to rescue a teenage girl from slavery in a brothel. At the time we had already been rescuing kids from sweatshops within Vietnam for just over a year. We were responding to calls for help from families and found that the skills we had developed working with street kids were useful in investigating missing children. Even still, when that first case in China came up, we knew we were taking on something bigger than we had ever encountered. That…

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Ten

Nam’s life has been pretty rough by anybody’s standard – and he’s only 10 years old. Blue Dragon first came across Nam a couple of years ago. He had been hanging out on the street with his mother, who sold drugs around one of Hanoi’s lakes, and most of the time he was completely unsupervised and uncared for. The very first time we noticed Nam, his mother was beating him for some perceived crime, and our social workers helped to calm things down. Nam had never learnt any good habits or…

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Freedom calls

Lan was 25 years old when she was trafficked from Vietnam and sold into a forced marriage deep inside China. Blue Dragon receives calls for help several times a week, and sometimes every day. The young people we’re called to rescue are in all sorts of situations: sometimes caught up in pedophile rings, sometimes trapped in sweatshops, sometimes taken out of the country and sold to brothels or as brides. When the phone rings we just don’t know what the next case will be. For all we’ve seen and heard over the years,…

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Chains

(Apologies for the re-post; a WordPress glitch deleted this post from last week). Trinh is 14 years old and has been selling sex for 2 years. He has never told us how it started; I don’t know who first abused him or what the circumstances were. Maybe he was desperate for money and reluctantly went along with a pimp who convinced him it would be easy. Or maybe he was deceived by an older friend who promised him a fun night out and didn’t tell him what was going to happen.…

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Taking the lead

When Thoat first came to Blue Dragon, she was wild. People often assume that the boys must be harder to work with than the girls. In fact, when we meet homeless girls out on the streets of Hanoi, it’s not unusual that their behaviour is far more out of control than the boys who are in similar situations. Girls tend to grow up under stricter parental and family control; when that control is gone, the girls may not know how to manage their own behaviour. By contrast, boys are always…

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