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Month: April 2016

Bricks and mortar

Tin was 13 when she dropped out of school. It wasn’t that she disliked school; in fact she loved to study and was a good student. But living up in the mountains, in a remote ethnic community, meant that getting to school was an ordeal. She couldn’t travel to and from every day; it would take at least 2 hours each way, and that was in good weather. Her only chance to stay in school was to move away from home and live in a shared room near the school.…

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Ode to Joy, and Sorrow

Mr Triem dropped by the Blue Dragon centre in Hanoi on Friday afternoon with an invitation. A renowned pianist, Mr Triem and his soprano wife Xuan Thanh have retired from public life and spend their days teaching the Hope Choir, a band of blind students who over the years have performed for visiting dignitaries – including Bill Clinton – as well as countless charity events around the city. Triem and Xuan Thanh are an extraordinary couple. As someone with no musical talent whatsoever, I marvel at the magic they conjure…

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The cool kids

Thuan has a new piercing this week. He saved up money from his part time job and went down to the parlour around the corner from Blue Dragon. Like some other teens from our Hanoi centre, he now has multiple earrings, a few tattoos, and his hair is dyed another colour every other day. It’s all very inexpensive – the kids do much of this “self renovation” work themselves – but the result is incredibly cool. Trang doesn’t have any piercings, but she has defined herself through movement. In just a few short…

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The ‘R’ word

Among charities that work in the field of human trafficking, there’s a particular word which is considered highly contentious. My own organisation, Blue Dragon, started using the word 10 years ago. I didn’t even know that there was controversy around its use. The word? Rescue. It’s controversial for some good reasons. In places, organisations have ‘rescued’ people who didn’t want to be rescued, or used it as a euphemism for ‘imprison’. There are stories of NGOs raiding brothels or night clubs and taking out adult sex workers who didn’t consider themselves slaves,…

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If only

Ton and Viet are neighbours in a village about two hours drive from Hanoi. The roads turn into alleys and then into dirt tracks, winding through the hills towards the quiet settlement that they call home. Both boys are aged 15 now. Both are the only child in their family; both have grown up with just their mother; and both live in houses so dilapidated that they are beyond being fit for any person to inhabit. With all this in common, both boys ran away from home together more than a…

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