Not everybody makes it

I’m embarrassed to have missed blogging for the last two weeks. I’ve tried to keep a good routine but sometimes life gets out of hand. Mea culpa!

One of the joys of blogging is sharing stories of the wonderful children and young people I meet and work with. There are so many happy stories to tell. Even though most stories start with suffering or crisis, most do end with a real hope for the future.

But not all.

Since we rescued  our very first trafficked child back in 2005, I’ve seen so many lives turned around. We use the word “rescue” even though it is a contentious word in some circles; there are good arguments that the word has all the wrong connotations. It implies that the people we help are powerless victims, dependent on us to change their situation.

I agree with those concerns, and yet I still use the word “rescue” because… Well, that’s what we do. People call for help from places in which they are trapped and cannot escape. We find them, get them out of danger, and bring them home. That’s a rescue.

By far most of the people whose calls for help reach us eventually get home. What makes me lose sleep at night is the thought of all those people who have no chance to make that call.

Thu is one woman who was trafficked and sold as a bride in China and was desperate to make it home. She had no way to call for help, so she took it on herself to escape. Her dream was to make it back to her 5 year old son in Vietnam.

Thu didn’t make it. The man who bought her discovered her plan and called the trafficker to help. The trafficker found her as she made her escape through the streets; Thu ran no more than 10km before she was caught.

Even though she knew she was trapped, Thu refused to go back into slavery. She argued and fought. The man who had bought her, the “husband”, could see this was never going to work, so he told the trafficker to just repay him his money and let Thu go.

The trafficker knew he had lost. In his fury he beat Thu, tortured her, and finally killed her. He dumped her body down a well, leaving her there to rot. Nobody found her until it was too late. She was just 29 years old.

Normally Blue Dragon’s work is to bring women and children home to start their life again. In Thu’s case, we can’t do that. All that is left is to bring home her remains so that she can be buried in Vietnam in her ancestral village, and her infant son can visit his mother’s grave.

There will be no joy in this reunion. We are bringing Thu home this week, determined to give her in death a dignity she was denied in life.

This senseless loss will only drive us to be more determined to keep on rescuing those in need of help, and to do all we can to bring this evil industry of human trafficking to its knees.



Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation is holding its annual appeal. Please consider making a donation of any amount to continue the fight against trafficking.

Plus One

Two weeks ago, I told the story of 17 year old Thoan, the Hero of Zero.

He’s a wonderful kid who has faced so many challenges in life that eventually he simply gave up. After running away from home, Thoan spent his days playing computer games in one of Hanoi’s countless internet cafes, and his nights selling sex just so he could survive the next day.

Even after learning he was infected with HIV, Thoan continued hooking up with men who would abuse him for as little as $1.50 for a few hours of sex.

At the time of writing, there was no immediate prospect of Thoan accepting Blue Dragon’s help and coming in off the streets. He saw no reason to hope for anything better.

And then, last week, something unexpected happened.

Thoan turned up at Dragon House, our drop-in centre near Hanoi’s Red River.

He has long known the Blue Dragon social workers, who meet him on the streets or in the internet cafes. He’s known where to find us, and he’s always known that he’s welcome any time. But only last week did he call and say he wanted to see us.

And so Thoan spent 3 days sitting alone in Dragon House. There were plenty of people around, both kids and staff, but he didn’t want to talk or interact. He just wanted to sit and think.

He would smile when approached and chat when someone started a conversation; and then he would return to staring at his toes, sharing nothing and wanting nothing.

On the weekend, while staying in one of Blue Dragon’s crisis shelters, he spoke up.

Thoan wanted to go home.

This morning some staff traveled with Thoan out of the city to see his family. We’ve met them before, and they dearly love their son, but the chance of a successful reunion has always seemed incredibly low. Until now.

Today, Thoan was very clear. He was ready to be home. He wants to study a training course so he can get a proper job. He doesn’t want to be on the streets any more and he doesn’t want to sell himself to people who only want to exploit him. He’s done with that.

Sometimes we have plans and goals and milestones to measure our progress. And sometimes life happens just whenever it’s ready. Today was one of those times. Thoan was simply ready. He no longer wants to be the Hero of Zero; he wants to make something of his life.

So is this it? Happily ever after?

I’d love to wrap up this story with a bow, but this isn’t the end of the story. Today has finished on a wonderful high, but anything can happen tomorrow. The wheels may yet fall off.

However, Thoan has taken a step. From all our years of working with Vietnamese kids in crisis, I know that once this step is taken, there will be more to come. Even if it all falls apart tomorrow, Thoan will start again the next day. It may be a smooth ride from here, or it may not. Ultimately it doesn’t matter.

For all of us, life is a long story. For Thoan, his story has just opened a new chapter full of hope.


Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation rescues kids in crisis.