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Month: January 2019

Season of Mist and Coloured Hair

Hanoi is a grey place at this time of year, with fog and pollution hanging low over the city. But standing out from the drabness: swarms of blue, purple and yellow hair. Every year, right before Tet (Lunar New Year), the Blue Dragon kids dye their hair as a way of entering the new year with something different and striking. Their hair-dos can be pretty wild and wonderful. Of course, as soon as Tet is over they have to shave it all off in order to be allowed back to…

The rise of the baby farm

The first time he tricked a woman and sold her to a brothel, Mr Nam earned about $50. He had thought it would be  more, and was promised that next time he would be much happier. The buyers were right.  In between his on-again / off-again job as a xe om (motorbike taxi), Mr Nam was easily able to befriend young women who came into town with empty pockets in need of a job. By giving them a little money from time to time, and free rides around town, he…

Dirty hands

I lived on a farm in the outback of Australia for 6 years as a teenager. I hated it, and they were the best years of my life. At the time, I hated the isolation. We were 30km from the nearest village; to get a haircut was a 120km round trip. There was nobody my age nearby – no other houses in sight of our own – and for some years we were off the grid, with no electricity connection and our water was collected from a nearby stream. As…

Development should not be perfect

“Son is just fantastic,” the cafe owner said. “He’s one of my best staff. To be honest, I don’t know what I’d do without him.” You can imagine my pride at hearing this. Son is a terrific barista, and I always enjoy dropping in to the cafe where he works, in the centre of Hanoi, to have a cup of his best cappuccino. He serves ambassadors and officials, visitors to Vietnam and locals who have grown up here, always with his shy grin. But very few of his customers know…

Down in the dirt

Recently my social media feeds have been showing selections of outstanding photos from 2018. So here’s my own ‘photo of the year’ from Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation. The photo was taken by one of our Outreach workers during a routine visit of the hiding places where street kids in Hanoi live. There are two homeless boys in the shot, and another of our Outreach workers sitting with them. This image captures who we are. We’re out in the field, down in the dirt, where we are needed the most. We’re…