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Looking for impact

Thao and Tin’s rescue from a sweatshop in southern Vietnam changed the course of their lives. Thao, a 13 year old girl, and Tin, a 14 year old boy, had been locked into the upstairs of a garment factory for over 4 months by the time we found them. They had left their village in the north-west, close to the border of China, believing that they were on their way to a vocational training opportunity. Neither they nor their families had any idea they were to be used as slave…

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Plans and endings

We all dream of fairytale endings at some point in life. Especially when it comes to working with street kids and people who have been trafficked, we love to think that if we do our part, if we give our time or our money, there’ll eventually be a “happily ever after” – and who wouldn’t want that? Sometimes there is. On my old blog, 2 years ago today, I wrote of such a story: the very first girl and boy who we rescued from trafficking (in separate operations) married. Since…

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Home time

There’s just a little sadness at the Blue Dragon centre today. For the past 10 weeks, we’ve had the joy of a little girl named Chau toddling through our building. She took her first steps with us; she ate her first solids here in our office. I mentioned Chau on my blog a couple of weeks ago; and today she and her mother have returned to their village to be reunited with their extended family. Chau was 12 months old when her mother, a 19 year old woman named Hien, called us…

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Downpour

It was raining when I landed back in Vietnam, and the storms have kept sweeping through for the past 10 days. Here in Hanoi, when it rains it either pours down in incredible, flooding bursts; or it drizzles for days and weeks on end. Since I returned, it’s been downpours. Having been away for a few weeks I was excited to be coming home. But the downpours that have followed have been difficult. In the past 10 days, three good friends of Blue Dragon have passed away, each in different countries…

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Overcoming

We were in a cafe. There had been some conflict; I had done something to bother one of the local gangs and they demanded a meeting to talk. Minh was there, even though he had nothing to do with this. I don’t know why they brought him, but they may have been trying to demoralise me. Minh was a lovely kid. Quiet, peaceful, intelligent. He had just one fault: he hated himself. Absolutely, totally, despised his own being. I’ve never met anyone with a lower sense of self worth than Minh, who…

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Brotherhood

Binh was trafficked when he was just 14. His mother, raising 2 sons alone since the death of their father, thought that Binh was going to learn a trade. Living in extreme poverty, she couldn’t afford to pay school fees for Binh or his little brother Hien. When some traffickers came along, posing as intermediaries for a training program in Ho Chi Minh City, Binh’s mother believed she’d finally had a lucky break. Instead, Binh was sold to a garment factory. He became a slave, working on an industrial sewing machine up to 18 hours a…

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Run

Thanh was 16 when she was sold. She was a good student at school, and loved her family deeply. Growing up in a small city in northern Vietnam, with parents who cared for her, Thanh never imagined that anything like this could happen to her. If you made a list of all the typical vulnerabilities that can increase the risk of being trafficked, she would match almost none of them. Except, of course, that she is a girl in a world that objectifies and commodifies women. It was a friend…

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Quiet

This weekend I have been visiting my family in rural Australia. It’s been some years since I was last here, and I have forgotten how quietly paced life is in the countryside. In Vietnam, life never seems to slow down; there’s never time to take a breath. In part, this is the nature of the crisis work we do at Blue Dragon; but it’s also a reflection of the country itself. Even while I am travelling, there are rescues underway of girls who were trafficked to China, and our street…

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Past and present

It would be easy for me to think I’ve seen it all. My team here at Blue Dragon has rescued Vietnamese girls from brothels deep inside China. We’ve travelled to the border of Mongolia to find women sold as brides, and brought them home. We’ve met kids on the streets of Hanoi so entangled in pedophile rings, so deeply scarred, that we doubted we could ever get them out – and yet we did. We’ve founds children locked into sweatshops, missing for years, with no more than a gut feeling…

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Carry me

A popular idea among charities working with disadvantaged people is that of ‘mutual responsibility.’ It can take various forms and is given different names; these days the concept of ‘paying it forward’ is well known, but it can more simply be the idea of someone being obliged to volunteer or donate after they have received help to get back on their feet. The idea itself is terrific, and many inspiring stories have developed from this principle of reciprocity. In an organisation like Blue Dragon, this can be much harder to implement as…

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