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Category: Street kids

The Hero of Zero

The social workers at Blue Dragon have some very polite expressions to deal with the daily horrors they encounter. Chief among them: “Complicated.” When I hear a social worker saying that a family is “complicated,” I understand the meaning to be: “You’ve never seen a horror movie like you’re about to see.” Thoan is from a “complicated” family. This doesn’t mean his parents don’t love him, but it does mean he has endured neglect and abuse at home, and he carries the burden of guilt for whatever terrible things have…

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.…

What if?

During the week I visited British International School in Hanoi, and was talking to their Grade 8 class about charity, charities, and the idea that we all have a role to play in caring for our world. It’s always the Question Time that I most enjoy, because there’s nothing so insightful as the question of a child. And this class didn’t let me down. One of the girls asked me something quite profound: What if I hadn’t started Blue Dragon? Where would I be? And what about all the kids we’ve…

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…

Ten

Nam’s life has been pretty rough by anybody’s standard – and he’s only 10 years old. Blue Dragon first came across Nam a couple of years ago. He had been hanging out on the street with his mother, who sold drugs around one of Hanoi’s lakes, and most of the time he was completely unsupervised and uncared for. The very first time we noticed Nam, his mother was beating him for some perceived crime, and our social workers helped to calm things down. Nam had never learnt any good habits or…

Chains

(Apologies for the re-post; a WordPress glitch deleted this post from last week). Trinh is 14 years old and has been selling sex for 2 years. He has never told us how it started; I don’t know who first abused him or what the circumstances were. Maybe he was desperate for money and reluctantly went along with a pimp who convinced him it would be easy. Or maybe he was deceived by an older friend who promised him a fun night out and didn’t tell him what was going to happen.…

Taking the lead

When Thoat first came to Blue Dragon, she was wild. People often assume that the boys must be harder to work with than the girls. In fact, when we meet homeless girls out on the streets of Hanoi, it’s not unusual that their behaviour is far more out of control than the boys who are in similar situations. Girls tend to grow up under stricter parental and family control; when that control is gone, the girls may not know how to manage their own behaviour. By contrast, boys are always…

A difficult journey

It’s easy to think of working in charity as a glorious and noble mission. Sometimes it is: there are plenty of days I go home beaming, knowing that we’ve achieved something great and changed a life. And sometimes it’s grimy and dangerous and frustrating. There are plenty of days that end with nothing but a question mark about what will come next. This article, written by one of the most meticulous investigative journalists I have come across, was published just last weekend. It explores a case that Blue Dragon faced…