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Category: Resilience

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…

Pet projects

When I first met Son, he struck me as an intelligent, empathetic boy who had an unusually well developed combination of empathy and leadership skills. Later, when I learned that he had a long history as a gang leader, I was initially surprised, although I probably shouldn’t have been. All of the qualities that served him so well in the Blue Dragon shelter – his ability to get along with others, his can-do attitude, his integrity – ensured his success out on the streets. Son was 15 then, and is…

The long story

This first shot at getting back to the blog finds me quite far from home. I am in Zurich today, and heading to Ireland tomorrow where I will be speaking about human trafficking and what my organization in Vietnam has learned about it over the years. The story of Blue Dragon is one of unlikely success. We started back in 2002 as a group of friends in Hanoi wanting to help street kids; I was an English teacher in a university and most of those working alongside me were economists.…

Trust Me

Every rescue operation is different to every other, but Trang’s was somehow even more different. In her late teens, Trang was trafficked from Vietnam and sold into a brothel in China. As is very common in these cases, she was deceived by someone posing as a close friend. A young man built a relationship with her, gained her trust, and then betrayed her. After many months in the brothel, where each moment was a brutal fight for survival, she found herself in possession of a mobile telephone, and in the early hours…

Coffee

Early on Saturday morning, my phone buzzed to life with a message from Ly. Having been on the road for the past month (hence my severe lack of blog posts!) I spent much of the past week catching up with the team at Blue Dragon as well as the kids at our centre. Ly, however, was not someone I had expected to see. For the past 2 years Ly has been working in Ho Chi Minh City as a barista. He’s 26 years old now, but I have known him…

Talented

Bac’s Facebook page has gone into overdrive. Since late last week, he has been uploading photo after photo of himself and all his Blue Dragon friends at the annual Blue’s Got Talent gala in our Hanoi centre. It’s a brilliant affair. The lunch room is converted into a theatre for an afternoon, and the girls and boys get up to perform all kind of acts that they have been practicing for weeks (or longer!) to impress their friends – and a panel of judges. Some dance, some sing. This year, some…

Learning and growing

Nguyen is a pretty special teenage boy. He can be an angel at times, and he has a smile that beams with innocence. His mission in life is to bring joy to everyone; he becomes visibly frustrated and worried when people around him are arguing. Nguyen just wants everyone to be happy. And of course, being a teenager, he can also be a handful of trouble. He likes to hang out on the street late at night and has a habit of shouting at people who harass his friends. Just recently…

The Graduation

Today I found myself at Van Mieu, Hanoi’s renowned Temple of Literature, for a graduation. But I was there merely as a prop. Vietnam has a long history of valuing formal education in the tradition of Confucianism. Van Mieu stands as the country’s oldest university, dating back to 1070. Presumably, student life was quite different back then! I was called on this morning by Tan, one of the Blue Dragon boys whose girlfriend, Luan, has just completed her Grade 12 exams. I don’t know Luan very well, but she was coming…

Survival mode

Xuan doesn’t know how he came to be in the orphanage. He knows nothing of who his parents are or why they dropped him off at the institution just outside Hanoi. His earliest memories are of being cared for by an elderly orphanage worker in a group home; they were happy days and he always did well at school. A time came that he was adopted by a family; but when the parents split up neither wanted to keep Xuan so he ended up right back where he started. As…

The cover story

Huong was 19 when we brought her back. From a province in northern Vietnam, she had been trafficked and sold to a brothel in China before her 18th birthday. At the first moment possible, she made a call to her family in Vietnam and within weeks we had located her and helped her escape. When Blue Dragon first gets the survivors of human trafficking back across the border into Vietnam, we have psychologists and social workers to support them through their first days of freedom. Some are ready to give…