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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…

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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…

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The Rush

Early last week I found myself in a meeting at Blue Dragon where a 17 year old girl, Ha, was being reunited with her family. Ha had been trafficked from Vietnam into China 5 months ago and sold as a bride. She was a Grade 11 student and her family loves her deeply; her parents were overcome with emotion to be back together again. A H’mong family, Ha’s mother was wearing traditional dress and before leaving our centre Ha also changed back into her customary clothing for the first time since she…

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Home to say goodbye

Diep was 17 years old when she was trafficked to China and sold to a brothel. Most of the people Blue Dragon rescues from trafficking have been enslaved for a matter of months. Diep was in China for 14 years. She was sold by someone posing as a friend who offered to help her get a job in Hanoi. Those were the days before mobile phones and the internet were ubiquitous throughout the country, and Diep had no way of contacting her family when she realised she had been deceived.…

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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…

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A long time

Late last week, Blue Dragon brought home a woman, “Binh,” who was trafficked from Vietnam to China 26 years ago. The idea that someone could be enslaved for so long seems to defy understanding. We don’t yet know her full story, but we do know that when she was sold into a forced marriage at the start of the 1990s she already had a family here in Vietnam. Now in her 60s, Binh has spent almost half her life isolated from her own children, never knowing where they were or…

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Back

Thanh had a quiet life. Aged 27, she worked in a Hanoi clothes shop. She had good friends, a decent salary, and every reason to think she would soon be married and starting her own family. Until just over a month ago. One of her friends in the shop came to her secretly with a great idea. Why did they have to work for someone else? Why not put their minds together and open their own shop, using the contacts they had made and the business knowledge they had picked…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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