This morning I’m headed to a wedding.
Thai was one of the very early Blue Dragon kids; we met him about 12 years ago, when we were just starting out in Hanoi. His family lived in a tiny makeshift house by an open sewer and his brother was in prison. Thai had a pretty rotten start to life, and spent some time in a reform school as a teenager.
Despite everything, he’s made a good life for himself. He’s worked as a baker, a barman, and now as a security guard. He’s stayed away from serious trouble, which is tough in a part of the city where drugs are everywhere. And today he marries his girlfriend of 5 years.
In the coming weeks, there’ll be plenty more celebrations, too. At this time of year, Vietnam has a long stream of major events. As an Australian, Christmas for me is December 25, while Vietnamese celebrate on the 24th; so in essence I end up with 2 Christmas days. Then there’s ‘western’ new year and a few weeks later we’ll have Tet, the lunar new year, which is the major event in the Vietnamese calendar.
All of this is a great time to catch up with family. At Blue Dragon, that means seeing the ‘old kids’, like Thai, who have moved on and have their own independent lives but continue to stay in touch. Between now and the end of January, we’ll have a flow of young women and men dropping by, some with children of their own, to say hi and chat with the team. Half a dozen of the Blue Dragon staff have been with us for over 10 years, so there’s a lot of history among them and the old kids love to hang out with them at this special time of year.
One of our girls, Ha, has started making donations now that she and her husband are financially secure. She’ll be coming by on Saturday, when our centre holds its Christmas party, with gifts and food to help us celebrate the day.
Life was very different for Ha when we first met her back in 2005; at that time she needed a helping hand and a safe place to study and play. Now she wants to share her own relative prosperity with the children who are coming to Blue Dragon for that same safety and care that she once needed.
Throughout the year we see a lot of sorrow and hardship. Christmas, new year and Tet can still be hard times for the kids, but they’re also an opportunity to focus on and celebrate what matters most: Family.