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Author: Michael Brosowski

The importance of 2000

On Sunday, Blue Dragon United played its 2000th game of football (or soccer, for my Australian readers!). We started in 2003, before there even was such a thing as Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation. We were just a bunch of friends in Hanoi wanting to help out the city’s street kids. The idea started with a Spanish member of our group suggesting the football as a solution to our overcrowded classroom. Maybe we could help more kids by taking our activities to a field. At that time they were mostly shoeshine boys,…

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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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Blame

Of all of Blue Dragon’s work with kids in crisis, it is our involvement in rescuing people trafficked into the sex industry that attracts the most attention. Our rescues are in response to specific calls for help. Vietnamese girls and women who have been trafficked to China for sale as brides or into brothels call home for help; the message gets to us and we send a team to find them and bring them home. Among the questions I am asked most about this work is a question of blame. How could…

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The player

An old friend came to soccer this morning. Nam is 28 this year; he and his wife both work as chefs in Hanoi, and their beautiful son is 18 months now. But when I first met Nam, life was very different for both of us. The oldest son in his family, it was Nam’s duty to quit school and earn money when his mother fell on hard times. Nam left his home in Thanh Hoa province and traveled to Hanoi, where he started work shining shoes on the streets. We…

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In the end

Over the weekend in Lakeland Florida, Angela McGrath passed away in her home. Angie was a friend of the most special kind: someone who cared and loved with a genuine passion. I first met Angie through Facebook. She had come across Blue Dragon after reading John Shors’ novel Dragon House, and started following our work. Even though I had never met her, Angie immediately became a friend – not just a ‘supporter’ or a ‘donor’. Angie’s interest in our work wasn’t something new for her; as a mother of two,…

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20 years away

Nga walked across the border from China to Vietnam on Friday, 20 years after she was taken across by a gang of traffickers. Nga is in her 50s now. Most of the rescue operations that we conduct at Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation are of children and teens; but in reality we never say no to any call for help, no matter what age the person. Aged 33 when she was taken, Nga had a 6 year old son and a family who loved her very much. Her disappearance was a cause…

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