Building trust

A new wave of COVID is leading to a new spike in kids sleeping on the streets of the city.

Tan, aged 14, sleeping in a concrete pipe.

This is what COVID looks like in Vietnam, a country that has had roaring success in the first year of the pandemic and now is battling to contain a new outbreak.

We’re all sick of it. COVID stories seemed so urgent before but now we’re comfortable and familiar with the crisis. It doesn’t really seem like a crisis any more – we’ve found ways to adjust and get on with life.

But it’s different for the kids. For Tan, and young people like him around the country, COVID means a new layer of hardship on lives that were already difficult.

Tan grew up in a town not far from Hanoi. When he was young, he wanted to be a policeman, or start his own business. He still seems shocked when he thinks about what his life has actually become.

He’s homeless. A street kid. He sleeps in an abandoned construction site, where pimps and pedophiles routinely visit because it’s known as a place where children sleep away from the storms and the summer sun.

So far Tan has resisted the offers of help from Blue Dragon social workers, because he still believes he can make it on his own. He wants to prove to his family and himself that he is strong and independent. But he appreciates the visits, and the meals we bring him.

We know from experience that he’s likely to change his mind soon, and finally accept an offer of safe shelter. We also know that if he doesn’t, then he may find himself desperate enough to follow the pimps who promise easy money and quick fixes.

Being a street kid is always hard. Living in filth, unable to sleep through the night, always worrying about the next meal. The stress that homeless children experience can mark them for many years.

COVID has led to a surge in the number of kids sleeping rough – for all kinds of reasons. For some, it’s because money ran out at home and the children have headed to the city for survival. Others are on the streets because being with their parents, now unemployed, led to violence within the family, and they needed to escape.

Since the end of April, COVID has returned to Vietnam in a new wave that the authorities are struggling to get under control. For families living in poverty, the months ahead are going to be tougher than ever.

Blue Dragon’s work on the streets is a lifeline for kids like Tan. We don’t have any quick fixes; with some young people, it takes a long time to build trust to the point that we can really understand and offer help.

But what matters is that we keep trying. We don’t give up. We will keep talking to Tan, keep dropping by his concrete box with food and hygiene gear and friendly conversation.

When he’s ready to trust, we’ll be ready to help.

You can help by donating to the Blue Dragon Rescue Appeal at this link. Every dollar you donate will make a powerful difference.

Impossible

At the height of the 2020 lockdown, a young woman called for help. Trapped in slavery since the age of 21, this was her first chance to escape. But it was not to be.

We thought that Lan was dead.

Her last call to the Blue Dragon Rescue Team late one night in March 2020 delivered a chilling message.

Please say sorry to my family. Tell them I love them, but death would be better than one more day of this.

Lan was 26. She had been trafficked from her home in Vietnam across the border into China when she was just 21 years old.

After five years of being held in slavery, raped and beaten repeatedly by the man who bought her, Lan found a way to call for help.

Her call reached Blue Dragon, but the COVID pandemic had just begun. The border between Vietnam and China was closed; travel within both countries was heavily restricted.

The first time Lan thought she might find freedom, she was denied it.

We tried everything to reach her. And when we knew that we couldn’t, we resorted to comforting her, assuring her we would find a way.

But for people in slavery or situations of domestic violence, lockdowns are more than an inconvenience. Being locked down means being trapped in the same space as your abuser, all the time, with no relief. For Lan, the lockdown exacerbated her already-terrifying situation.

That night, she tried to take her own life. She did not succeed.

Since then, her traffickers watched her more carefully, reducing any chance she might have to call again for help or to attempt an escape.

Until now.

This week, Blue Dragon reached Lan. More than a year since we thought it was all over, feared we were too late, we found her. She is free.

Lan crossed the border late in the week, back into Vietnam, and is now in quarantine. We don’t know how long she will be there, because a new COVID outbreak has caused havoc across the country, but Lan is finally safe. The worst is surely behind her.

Every call for help demands urgent, immediate attention. COVID has made it so much harder for Blue Dragon to find and rescue people from situations of slavery, but it has also increased our resolve.

Because we can see how much more dangerous life is now for the poorest of the poor; how much more risk is faced by people who are jobless and desperate; how much more violence women and girls are facing when they are locked in with their abusers.

Right now, Blue Dragon is calling for help. We have launched our Rescue Appeal, asking friends near and far to donate so that people like Lan can be found and brought home to safety.

But the money we raise goes beyond rescue. The donations you send are put to use to prevent trafficking by keeping kids in school and helping families stay safe.

And when survivors of trafficking, like Lan, return home, donations mean that they will have counselling, healthcare and education – a chance to start over.

Lan’s rescue and return home seemed impossible this time last year. Now the impossible has happened.

Human trafficking can be defeated. We can do this; we only need to try.

You can make a donation to the Blue Dragon Rescue Appeal at this link. Every dollar you donate will make a powerful difference.

Different paths

Working with street kids, we hope for “happy ever after” endings. But real life is always more complex than that.

Thursday was a significant day for Diep and San, two Blue Dragon ‘old boys’.

Diep was one of the first Blue Dragon kids. He left his village in 2002 aged 14 and traveled alone to Hanoi, where he earned money shining shoes on the streets.

Blue Dragon helped Diep return to school and then find a job once he was old enough. After working in a kindergarten and then a restaurant, Diep came back to Blue Dragon as a social worker, and has been with us for the past 15 years.

Diep looking for street kids in Hanoi.

On Thursday, he worked his final shift.

Diep married last December, and has now made the decision to return to his hometown to work in his wife’s business – an English language school for children.

For all of us at Blue Dragon, this is an incredibly sad departure. Diep is well-loved by everyone, staff and kids alike. It’s almost unimaginable that he would leave.

But it’s also a moment of great joy. Diep is taking a new step in life, starting a family and seeking new adventures. Wonderful days lie ahead.

San’s Thursday was equally significant, but for different reasons. He went to court and was sentenced to more than a year in prison.

San first came to Blue Dragon as a street kid in 2007. He was always a bright and happy young person, willing to take risks and reach new heights.

Earlier this year he was arrested for his involvement in a black market money-lending ring.

There is no question that he was part of this, but he parted ways with the ring more than five years ago. San is married now and runs a legitimate business with his wife, but the long arm of the law caught up with him and for the next year he will be behind bars.

Diep and San are both Blue Dragon ‘old boys’ and both are a part of our extended family, even though they have followed very different paths in life.

In our work – just as in life – we all wish for a bright and rosy outcome. We wish that every new street kid we meet will be another Diep, wanting to give back to the community and be a role model for others.

By far, most of the young people we meet sleeping rough or working on the streets have good hearts. Many go on to raise wonderful families, or get involved in social causes. Some come back to work or volunteer with Blue Dragon.

But even those who get into trouble and find themselves on the wrong side of the law still deserve a chance. They equally deserve and need someone to care for them. Someone to stand up for them. Someone to walk alongside them without judgement.

In fact, it’s the kids who are prone to get into trouble who most need care and attention. For Blue Dragon, finding those kids who are in conflict with their families or have a history of breaking the law is a priority.

Because we want to get in there early. We want a chance at turning a young life around. We want to give kids an opportunity to have a life that’s safe and free. We want to raise young people who care for others.

As teenagers, both Diep and San came to Blue Dragon in need of some help. Now adults, their lives have turned out very differently. Life doesn’t always deliver the fairy tale endings we wish for, but that can’t stop us from trying.

Blue Dragon rescues kids in crisis. Right now we are asking for your help through our annual Rescue Appeal. If you are able, please consider making a one-off donation for this important work.

Then Who?

“If not us, then who?
If not now, then when?”

Over the weekend, Nhung and her two friends finally tasted freedom. And their first port of call was a police station.

Since their return from China two weeks ago, the young women have been in mandatory quarantine at a camp in the northern mountains of Vietnam. Nhung is 18, and her friends, Sen and Trang, are not much older. Each of them is heavily pregnant.

The friends were taken to China by traffickers who preyed on the extreme desperation that they were in. The young women are from an area of Nghe An province in north-central Vietnam where poverty, illiteracy, and human trafficking are rife, especially among the Kho Mu ethnic community they belong to.

Nhung, Sen and Trang feared the worst for their unborn children, and were in need of help. Nhung fell pregnant to her boyfriend, and their families rejected them. Trang’s husband died while she was in the early months of pregnancy. And the father of Sen’s child abandoned her as soon as he knew she was pregnant.

The traffickers knew they were in trouble, and convinced them that the best thing they could do was travel to China and give the babies up for adoption.

Of course, there was to be no adoption. The young women were to be kept in isolation and once their babies were born they would be sold to the highest bidder. What would happen to the women after that is anybody’s guess. It was a stroke of good fortune that they were found in time and Blue Dragon could help them return to Vietnam.

Nhung and her friends were manipulated and exploited, and in many ways they are lucky to be home. On Saturday, police took statements from the young women and are now looking for their traffickers, who are in hiding. Things could have been much worse.

Nhung, Sen and Trang gave statements to police on the weekend.

At Blue Dragon we see this daily. Girls and young women tricked into following someone away from their home, only to be trapped and sold. Kids sleeping rough on the streets of the cities. Some days there seems to be no end to the hardships.

This problem of trafficking for surrogacy is particularly complex. Everybody wants to address it – police, welfare agencies, and organisations like Blue Dragon. Recent discussions on reforming Vietnam’s law on human trafficking have raised this issue in detail, and it’s likely that the revised law next year will make surrogacy trafficking easier to detect and prosecute.  

Nhung, Sen and Trang are safe now, and home with their families. Blue Dragon will work with them so that they can have their babies and raise a family without fear of the future.

Our work over the years has shown again and again that even in the midst of the most terrible situations, there can still be hope.

And this gives us a great responsibility: because if change is possible, then we must work toward it. If we can make things better, then we must.

In the words of the legendary John Lewis: “If not us, then who? If not now, then when?”

We all want a better world: free from slavery, where children are safe, with a future we can believe in. But who will create that world? Whose job is it?

This is our responsibility – yours and mine. For young people like Nhung and her friends to live without extreme poverty, able to raise children without fear, we need to work towards a fairer, safer world.

And while that may seem an overwhelming burden, the good news is that it’s possible. Nhung and her friends are home now, and we can get them the care and assistance they need to stay safe.

Together, we can do it. It’s us, and it’s now.

Blue Dragon is asking for your help in this year’s Rescue Appeal. A donation today will be a lifeline to children and young adults in need of urgent help.

Up and Up

When you’re in pain
When you think you’ve had enough
Don’t ever give up

– Up and up, Coldplay

Some days are bleak. Some are terrifying.

The work of Blue Dragon, which I share here in this blog from week to week, can feel overwhelming. Teenagers trafficked and sold into slavery. Families trying to survive on the streets. Children sleeping on building sites.

It would be too easy to forget that there is so much good in our world. So today I want to share some updates of people in recent blog posts who are doing well and living with renewed hope.

A home of her own

When Blue Dragon rescued 18-year old Anh from slavery, we knew that she had been through a terrifying ordeal. Trafficked at age 13, she had been taken to China and sold as a bride in a remote village.

What we didn’t know – and what Anh herself was yet to discover – was that she was pregnant at the time she returned. A routine health check led to the discovery, and within weeks she was a mother.

Since then, Anh has been through some terrible personal turmoil, but now has something wonderful to look forward to. Thanks to a special donor, Blue Dragon has been able to buy land for Anh and right now we are building a house.

In coming months, she will have a home that is hers forever. She will no longer live in the cramped shack she grew up in, but she will still be close to her family home and the community where she feels safe.

Nothing that we can do will ever give Anh back all that she has lost as a child. However, this will certainly be a great help for her future.

Healing

Bao was already doing it tough when he had a motorbike accident that broke his arm so severely that he needed major surgery.

A former Blue Dragon boy, we still see Bao from time to time and have been proud to watch him grow into a wonderful, caring young man. When we heard about his accident, we were deeply worried. The cost of his surgery was estimated to be far more than he could earn in a year. On top of this, he would be out of work for many months and has a young son to care for.

When we asked for help, the response was incredible. People here in Vietnam and around the world donated to pay for the surgery, and there’s enough left over to keep supporting him and his son while he can’t work.

Bao’s arm is healing well and it appears he doesn’t need any more surgery – just some ongoing therapy to get the arm back to strength. He’s not able to work again yet, so has been volunteering his time to help others while he recovers. And when he does recover, he’ll enroll in some vocational training so that he can find more stable and safe work in the future.

Without the generosity of the community, there’s no way Bao and his son could have made it this far.

Bao and his son playing near their home.

Paying off

The story of Cong and Na struck a note with many Blue Dragon supporters.

Na was trafficked and sold, leaving her father desperate to find her. As so often happens, someone took advantage of his vulnerability, tricking him into paying $5000 in the hope that his daughter would be found.

Blue Dragon rescued Na and she is now home safely; but Cong’s massive debt remains. And so some wonderful people around the world have sent donations to help, and more has been promised. If enough is raised, there might even be enough to pay off the debts off some more families in the exact same situation as Cong and Na.

Anh, Bao, and Cong and Na have faced extraordinary difficulties in their lives. And with support from people near and far, they’ve each been given a chance to face these dark times and start over. To all have helped: thank you!

For all of the hardships and horrors of our world, there is always hope that we can overcome. If only we care, there’s really no problem that we can’t set right.

Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation rescues kids in crisis. 

Access is all

Street kids live in constant fear and danger. And for a child like Panh, returning home is not always a lasting solution.

At first we could only see Panh’s feet.

He had taken refuge in a construction site with another homeless teen. They were in such a deep sleep that no amount of noise could wake them. Their faces were covered with blankets, so we couldn’t even see who they might be.

Sleep is precious when you’re homeless. It’s also dangerous.

Panh is 14. He had been in the city for nearly 2 weeks when Blue Dragon social workers found him. But it wasn’t his first time running away from home.

Panh and a friend sleeping rough in Hanoi.

Born high up in the mountains of northern Vietnam, Panh’s story is one we have heard too many times. His parents separated before he was born; his mother remarried; and as a child he was left with his elderly grandparents to care for.

In a region so remote and economically poor, Panh’s early years were filled with hardship. His grandparents loved him, but he longed for the love of his parents. Going to school without enough money to pay his fees, or for lunch, put him to shame; and knowing that all his friends would go home at night to their mothers and fathers only made him feel deeply inadequate.

Over time, Panh increasingly acted out in ways that demanded the attention of his family. He skipped school. He didn’t come home at night. And before long he was really pushing the limits: stealing bicycles around the village and hanging out with older kids who already had a bad name in town.

But when we met him in Hanoi, buried in a filthy blanket and deep in an exhausted sleep, all we saw was a child desperate for love and attention.

At heart, Panh is a good kid.

So when we offered help to get him to a safe shelter – and later, to return to his village – Panh knew it was the right thing to do. He was also glad of a safe place to sleep.

Last week we took Panh home. It was a long journey – the social workers were on the road with him for 3 days. He’s back at his father’s house now, and his school and community has committed to looking out for him.

But to be honest, we’re half expecting that Panh will return to the streets before long.

Because life will still be tough back in the village. Panh wants to be with his father, but in reality his dad struggles with an alcohol addiction and he won’t be as helpful tomorrow as he’s promised today. This is no ‘happy ever after’ ending.

And that’s the reality of working with street kids.

Some just need a helping hand one day to get back to their family or to a safe shelter where they’ll stay until they finish their schooling. Others will stumble from crisis to disaster, and may even end up in trouble with the law. Life is messy and complex even for those of us lucky enough to have a loving family around us. For street kids, there may never be an end to the hardships that they know.

Blue Dragon’s work with victims of human traffickers has a clear end point. We want to see the day that trafficking just doesn’t happen any more. We can’t say when that day will be, but that’s the goal and we believe it’s achievable.

In our work with street kids, the goal is very different. We know that there will always be children working and living on the streets. There will never be a tidy end to this work.

Instead, we have set a very different goal. Blue Dragon is aiming to make sure that every street child in Hanoi, where our main centre is based, has access to someone who can care for them.

And we know that caring for street kids is more complex than it sounds. Experienced social workers and psychologists are critical to this work. Lawyers are too, and Panh’s case is a great example. Because his father left home before he was born, Panh has never had official registration as a citizen. Now he does, thanks to Blue Dragon’s work with his village police. That means he’s now legally entitled to support from the government. It sounds like a tiny detail, but it makes a massive difference in anyone’s life.

The Consortium for Street Children – of which Blue Dragon is a member – acknowledges April 12 as the International Day For Street Children.

The theme this year is the right for street children to access the services they need so they can have a safe and prosperous life like anyone else: shelter, education, psychology, legal advocacy.

It’s a basic right for street children to have access to these services, yet it seems so difficult in practice. Because it’s messy. It often involves having social workers climbing around construction sites or under bridges late at night, looking for kids who are hiding or sleeping, afraid to reveal who they are.

Making sure that every street child has access to someone who cares – who really cares – is a bold and ambitious dream. It’s a dream we all must work toward, because together we can do it.

Children on the streets need special care and and attention. We hope that Panh will be OK now that he’s home; but we must accept that he may still need further help. His difficult days are not yet over.

And if Panh does return to the streets, looking to escape the hardships of his life, we will be here for him.

Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation rescues kids in crisis.

Reform

Sold into a forced marriage far from home, Na never expected to be a victim of human trafficking. But in this case, she wasn’t the only victim…

Na was 16 when she was sold.

She lived by the river in a simple hut. Her father, Cong, is a fisherman. Although he works all day the money he brings home doesn’t go very far. Most of their family income was from Na’s brother, who worked as a chef in Ho Chi Minh City until COVID came and the restaurant closed.

So Na did what countless girls, boys and young adults around Vietnam did. She decided to leave school and get a job. She wanted to help and she knew that by earning some money her family would get through these difficult times.

Her betrayal was at the hand of someone she thought was a friend. Na could never have imagined the horrors that would unfold – or that she would be sold to a man thousands of miles from home.

Na’s father Cong couldn’t understand the terror that his daughter was going through, but he knew something was wrong. He reported to the police everything he knew – but he wanted to do more.

Seeking help from a neighbor, he took to social media to implore the world to help. He would sell his fishing boat and his house to pay a reward for anyone who could bring Na home safely.

Cong’s public pleas for help swiftly attracted a response. A young man rang just days later with a promise. He had seen Na being taken into China. He had some friends in the area who could help. But it would be costly. The young man asked for $5000.

Never in his life had Cong seen so much money, but if it meant that Na could return home, he would find a way. He approached the local money lenders, whose interest rates were up to 5% per day, and soon had the unbelievable sum of cash in his hand.

Na was gone, but Cong now had a reason to hope.

But once that money was transferred, Cong’s phone fell silent. The young man had disappeared.

It was fully a week before Cong accepted that he had been robbed. He lay awake all night, hating himself for being such a fool. Hating himself for making it even less likely that Na would ever be found. He wondered if ending his own life would in any way make up for what had happened to his only daughter.

And later, he would learn the bitter news that he had given money to the very person who had trafficked his daughter.

Blue Dragon found Na three months after she was taken. We organised a rescue operation and got her back to Vietnam where – after two weeks in COVID quarantine – she could finally get home to her father’s loving arms.

A father and daughter reunited

Cong and Na, and all their extended family, are relieved beyond words to be back together. But this is an ordeal that will haunt them forever.

The trauma that Na has experienced. The massive debt that Cong now has on his shoulders. Their months apart, and the extraordinary stress that they all lived through. The loss of their fishing boat – which was the only source of income for this family.

Recovery will take many, many years.

Blue Dragon’s philosophy is that we will help as much as we can, for as long as we are needed. However, there’s a bigger picture at play here.

What services and support should Na’s family be eligible to receive from the government?

When the trafficker is prosecuted and the court decides on compensation to be paid to Na, should her father Cong also be eligible for financial compensation?

As Na inevitably goes through the system – giving statements, applying for social assistance, re-enrolling in school – what training will each official she encounters have to support her on this journey? What rules are there to ensure her privacy and her dignity?

The truth is, many factors impact on the recovery for survivors of human trafficking and their families.

Right now, Vietnam’s law on human trafficking – the law that sets out all these details like the right to services, support and compensation – is being reviewed. And this means a chance to make a change for good.

Meeting between Blue Dragon and police to discuss areas of the law to reform

Blue Dragon is in a special position to contribute to this review. We’ve rescued over 1,000 people from slavery. In court we have represented 92 survivors of trafficking as their traffickers are prosecuted. And we’ve given psychological counselling and practical assistance to over 1,700 survivors as part of their recovery process.

So as this review gets underway, Blue Dragon is playing a key role in contributing our experience and ideas. Our strategy of having a multidisciplinary approach – with lawyers, psychologists and social workers all together on one team – means we can offer some rich insight on what’s needed in the new law.

This is a chance to make the system work better for everyone.

For Na and Cong, we will continue helping them as best we can while they recover from their terrifying experience. And through this law review, we will ensure that the whole system is better able to support families like them in the future.

Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation rescues kids in crisis. We are especially thankful to the Czech government’s Transition program for funding our ongoing involvement in this law reform initiative.

The pinky friend

Mai and her little brother and sister have suffered violence at the hands of those who should have protected them. Now they have new friends to look over them wherever they go.

Mai is seven years old, and has always lived in fear.

Her mother loves Mai and her younger brother and sister very much, but their home is dominated by their grandmother, whose violence has ruled their lives since birth. Their mother is powerless to protect the three tiny children.

Domestic violence in Vietnam is often seen as a private matter, for families to sort out for themselves. When children are the victims, it may be seen just as a matter of harsh but necessary discipline – and the right of the parents, or grandparents, to decide.

Mai and her siblings endured severe beatings every other day. The neighbors and community around them simply could not look away. When a call came to Blue Dragon asking for help, the children bore bruises on their faces and bodies that spoke of deeply disturbing abuse.

Through our daily work, we often see young people in desperate situations. But the sorrow on Mai’s face was like nothing else.

Police came and started the process of investigation. Statements from the children. Interviews with the mother and grandmother. Reports from the local community.

Mai and her brother and sister had entered the very adult world of criminal investigation and judicial processes… but they are safe.

Taken into Blue Dragon’s care, they had their first proper sleep in many months. Nothing to fear, no screaming and no beatings. And most of all, each of them slept for the first time with a new friend – soft toys that they clung to through the night.

For Mai and her little brother and sister, these dolls are more than just toys. They are friends to hold onto, to see them through the many changes that they are now going through. A new home. New beds to sleep in at night. New people around them, speaking with quiet and calm words that are unfamiliar to them.

Everything is different. But Mai’s friend, a soft pink toy dog, goes with her everywhere.

Getting the soft toys in order – Mai loves looking after the dolls and stuffed animals in the Blue Dragon library.

In a play session one day at Blue Dragon, Mai told the psychologist: “I will bring my pinky friend wherever I go as she makes me feel that I am not lonely. But she has a hole… Can you help me with that?”

Her psychologist ensured her that they could patch up the hole to make her pinky friend beautiful again. Mai smiled happily and told the soft creature, “You don’t need to worry. I will protect you just like you protect me.”

All that has happened, and all that is yet to come, may be too complex and horrible for Mai to understand. But with her pinky friend in her arms and a safe bed at night, she knows she is going to be OK.

Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation rescues kids in crisis.

Back on the streets

Vi Do left home at age 15 and became a ‘street kid.’ Now he has devoted his life to helping other homeless teens to turn their lives around.

Whenever there’s a headline in the news about kids in Hanoi getting arrested, Vi is on alert.

He scans the article and checks the photos. He worries that he will know one of the young people in trouble.

Vi was a street kid himself as a teenager. With some help from Blue Dragon, he escaped the street life and had a promising career in hospitality, but decided to return to the organisation that helped him so that he in turn could help others.

Now he’s a senior leader at Blue Dragon, working with psychologists and social workers and lawyers to protect children from being abused, misled and exploited.

Just last week, one of Vi’s fears was realised. One of the young men arrested for his involvement in a huge gang fight – with swords and knives and metal bars – was Tu, one of the Blue Dragon boys not so long ago.

Tu is an orphan and as a child he learned to fend for himself. By the time we met him, he was already in his mid teens and hardened in his ways.

But Tu always had a soft side; in moments of quiet, he would share his regrets and his dreams, wishing that life had been very different. He would wonder aloud if he had any chance of turning his fortunes around.

The last time that Tu came to see Vi was just last year, and it was an emotional meeting. Tu is in his 20s now and has already spent time in prison; he’s survived a severe bout of pneumonia that almost killed him; and he’s battled with a meth addiction. So he came by the Blue Dragon centre to talk, but instead spent an hour in uncontrollable tears.

Tu said almost nothing. He just wanted someone to sit with him as he unloaded his burden of guilt and shame.

Now he’s caught up again in gangs, and this time he’s facing a prison sentence of at least 5 years. He may be in his 30s the next time he walks free.

For Vi, Tu’s story is too familiar, and very close to home. Vi knows that, as a teenager who worked on the streets alone, he too could easily have followed the path that Tu is now going down.

Vi Do meeting with homeless teens in Hanoi.

In some ways Vi was just lucky. Even though he was a street kid, he had a family back in the countryside who loved him very much. He had a community of people from his village who were also living and working in Hanoi. And he met Blue Dragon before he was on the streets for very long.

All these factors were out of Vi’s control, but along the way he also made some good decisions that kept him out of too much trouble. Now, he can see that the teens who come to Hanoi and end up homeless or working on the streets are in need of that same family support, community and social assistance that got him through the very difficult days he experienced as a teenager.

These girls and boys come from all around Vietnam – from north to south – and come for all kinds of reasons. But they all face the same dangers when they get here, and Vi wants nothing more than to be their shield to keep them safe.

This morning he’ll be checking the newspapers once again, and tonight he’ll be back on the streets with his outreach team, looking to see who needs a helping hand.

Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation meets and assists 12 – 20 new homeless children every month.

Mother

A life of hardship and tragedy could not stop Vy from dreaming that she would one day have a family of her own.

Vy has lived a hard life.

She’s always been poor. She has usually been unemployed. And in recent years, she has been homeless.

But there’s something else that she has always wanted to be:

A mother.

Collecting scrap on the streets with her partner, Vy shares the same dream that we all share: a happy future with people she loves. So the first time she fell pregnant, she was delighted and hopeful that brighter days were ahead.

When she lost her baby in a miscarriage, she was devastated. And more than a year later when she was pregnant again, a second miscarriage seemed to spell the end of her dreams.

Blue Dragon met Vy in January when Help Hanoi’s Homeless, an awesome local volunteer association, contacted us. Normally Blue Dragon focuses our attention on people who have been trafficked and street children; supporting homeless pregnant women is a little outside our regular work.

But Vy’s situation was dire. 38 weeks pregnant and living on the streets, she was unsafe and unwell. And the risk of a third miscarriage was just too great.

Working with the volunteers, we rented Vy a room and supplied her with some basic needs to see her through. Seeing the mix of joy and fear in her eyes was heartbreaking. Vy’s final weeks of pregnancy were filled with both hope and dread. She faced every day wanting nothing more than to have the chance to be a mother, and hold her baby in her arms.

This is a story with a happy ending. Vy’s dream has come true. Her baby girl was born safely in hospital. Ha Chi has every chance of leading a healthy, happy life. Vy is over the moon.

Vy’s newborn girl, Ha Chi.

Now that she has a child, Vy doesn’t want to work on the streets any more. We’ve helped her stay stable through these first months while Vy’s partner starts in a regular job and begins earning an income. We’re also helping to get a birth certificate for the baby; Vy is from southern Vietnam, so needs some extra help to make that journey and get the paper work done.

Of course, Vy’s story isn’t over. It isn’t always easy for people who have experienced years of homelessness to return to a more stable life. But this is what Vy wants and has fought for; and more than anything, she wants to give Ha Chi the life that she wishes she had had.

Vy may have been through a lot in life, but she’s going to be a wonderful mother.

Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation rescues kids in crisis.