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Category: Street kids

500 to 1

If you’ve seen the latest newsletter, then you’ll have heard the news that we’ve just passed another milestone. Blue Dragon has successfully reunited 500 street children with their families. Meeting homeless children and offering care and protection is where Blue Dragon started, even though we are now better known for our rescues of people from slavery. Every city in the world has children who live or work on the streets. Hanoi is no exception. What’s noticeable here is the lack of services for them; every now and then there are…

Street life

Here’s something I’d love to share – a film made by some high school students as part of their final year studies. The students from the United Nations International School created this as an assignment, deciding to create a story looking into the life of street children in Vietnam. It’s a fictional take on the life of one child, and captures the essence of what it’s like to be homeless in Hanoi. Treat yourself to 7 minutes of a very touching film made by some wonderfully talented young people.  …

Finding passion

When Tan was 13, he ran away from his home on a small farm in northern Vietnam. I met him in Hanoi a few weeks later. He had been surviving on the streets with help from some older boys who stole and pimped for a living. Fortunately, Tan hadn’t become entangled in anything too bad by the time Blue Dragon’s outreach workers met him and offered him a place to stay.  Tan was a shy and nervous little boy. I never understood how he had found the courage to leave…

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…

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…