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Category: Street kids

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…

Representation

Sometimes I find it hard to explain what Blue Dragon does. We started out, back in 2003, as a group of friends in Hanoi running English classes for street kids. Soon after we took the classes to a football field, where our long-running soccer team began. (Just last summer we played our 2000th game). Then we opened a shelter; then a drop-in centre. Then we found ourselves in a position to help a child who had been trafficked and sold, and so we started what would be the first of…

Listen to this

I’ve been on the road for the past couple of weeks, visiting friends of Blue Dragon in Singapore and Perth. I find these trips exhausting while also enriching. There’s a real joy in meeting with people around the world who care about the children of Vietnam and want to be part of our effort to make the world better for them. And there’s even more joy in returning to Vietnam and going back to Dragon House, our HQ and children’s centre. Having been away just for 2 weeks, it seems…

To save a life

As the Blue Dragon kids grow up, some stay in close contact with us while others drift in and out. Social networks, both online and offline (aka ‘real life’!) keep us informed of what’s happening with the young people we know, even if we don’t always hear from them directly. So when Thien dropped off our radar a few months ago, I suspected something was wrong. Thien is in his 20s now, but first came to Blue Dragon aged 14. He was living in the community with some uncles who…

Success

Ngan has been with Blue Dragon since she was in primary school. Through our sponsorship program, she received help with her study fees and school gear right through to the end of high school. Being an intelligent and ambitious young woman, Ngan then wanted to enroll in an engineering degree, so a scholarship through Blue Dragon’s Tertiary Students program meant she could keep on studying. Ngan wasn’t due to finish her studies until mid 2017, but she’s done so well that she was able to accelerate through some classes and…

The Gift

My last Australian Christmas was in 2001. Since then, I’ve been in Hanoi for every Christmas Day, including today. I’m not a very traditional type of person, but there is one tradition I’ve kept for the last 15 years: a Christmas meal with the Blue Dragon kids. Although I’m far from my family in Australia, there’s a real joy in spending the day with my Blue Dragon family here in Vietnam. I still vividly remember that first Christmas in Hanoi, when Blue Dragon was so young we didn’t even have a…

Sooner

Manh looked like a little man. He’s 14 years old and very small for his age, but my first impression was that he could have been anywhere between 10 and 40. He’d been on the streets of Hanoi for a few months, living in internet cafes and begging for money when he first arrived. It wasn’t long before some pimps had their hooks into him, and soon he was introduced to a much older man who took him to a hotel for sex. By the time I met him, he…

A change of title

In a staff training session recently, our Communications Manager asked us to think of what our job title really should be, given what we actually do at work. It was a light-hearted but revealing activity. Someone said that his title should be ‘Batman’ as he is a protector of homeless children. Another described herself as a “Bridge,” because she brings young people in trauma back to safety and connects them with their families. When it came to my turn, I said that I consider myself the CPB of Blue Dragon:…

Be angry

Every day I meet children and young adults who have been through extraordinary trauma. If they lived in the west, their stories would be front page in the newspapers. There’s one story that always stands out to me as among the worst; and it’s one of the foundational stories behind why Blue Dragon began, back in 2003. Even before Blue Dragon was created, I was volunteering alongside Vietnamese and international friends to help out street kids we were meeting in Hanoi. We had no real plan to form a charity. We…