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Category: Charity

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

Take a moment

If you’ve been following what’s happening at Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation, you’ll have seen the launch of our annual funding appeal. This is the time of year that we plan for the coming 12 months, and ask the world to help us. It’s a nerve-wracking time because so much depends on the outcome. Part of the approach this year was to make some films about the kids who we’ve rescued in the past. The website has a few good films, including some made by the kids themselves (which is a…

Creators

The words that we use shape our perceptions, as well as those of the people hearing what we say. As an example, the Australian government’s use of the word “Illegals” to replace the word “Refugees” has shaped the country’s discussion about humanitarian migration. In my work at Blue Dragon, I sometimes struggle with choosing the right word or expression to describe the kids we work with. Preparing proposals and reports, and even writing for this blog, I sometimes have to stop and ask myself what the right word could be.…

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,…

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,…

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,…