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Life is a long story Posts

Deep impact

When I first met ‘Tan’, he was living wild on the streets of Hanoi. I don’t know if anybody had ever cared for him before; every instinct of his body was about survival. Everyone Tan met was either afraid of him or loathed him – and often both. Even though he was only 12 or 13 years old, his rejection of all social boundaries, all rules, left people shocked. Little kids are supposed to be cute and playful; and when you meet homeless children and offer to help, they should be…

Old friends

Life at Blue Dragon is about constant change and growth. I may see one of the kids every day for months, or even years, and eventually they move on to develop their life away from the safety of our centre. Just as parents feel the mix of joy and sorrow when their own children start becoming independent and move away from home, my team and I are in a perpetual flux with new kids coming in and – albeit much more slowly – the older kids heading out. None leave…

Take a moment

If you’ve been following what’s happening at Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation, you’ll have seen the launch of our annual funding appeal. This is the time of year that we plan for the coming 12 months, and ask the world to help us. It’s a nerve-wracking time because so much depends on the outcome. Part of the approach this year was to make some films about the kids who we’ve rescued in the past. The website has a few good films, including some made by the kids themselves (which is a…

Creators

The words that we use shape our perceptions, as well as those of the people hearing what we say. As an example, the Australian government’s use of the word “Illegals” to replace the word “Refugees” has shaped the country’s discussion about humanitarian migration. In my work at Blue Dragon, I sometimes struggle with choosing the right word or expression to describe the kids we work with. Preparing proposals and reports, and even writing for this blog, I sometimes have to stop and ask myself what the right word could be.…

A good kid

Long was sleeping on the streets of Hanoi when we met him just a few months ago. He’s 16, but a skinny boy who still has his boyish charm. When we meet street kids, we have to accept that we know nothing about them. It’s easy to jump to conclusions about who they might be or why they might be homeless, and in fact it’s sometimes hard to not start making assumptions. At first Long was an unreadable book. I couldn’t quite understand him; at times he would light up…

Home

Today I’m writing from New Zealand, the first stop in my annual fundraising trip. By tonight I’ll be in Australia and spend a couple of weeks there catching up with people and attending events before heading home to Hanoi at the end of the month. One part of me loves these trips: I get to see friends from around the world, I share stories of what’s happening back in Vietnam, and I have the chance to see some blue skies. Another part of me dreads going away: deep down I’m…

The importance of 2000

On Sunday, Blue Dragon United played its 2000th game of football (or soccer, for my Australian readers!). We started in 2003, before there even was such a thing as Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation. We were just a bunch of friends in Hanoi wanting to help out the city’s street kids. The idea started with a Spanish member of our group suggesting the football as a solution to our overcrowded classroom. Maybe we could help more kids by taking our activities to a field. At that time they were mostly shoeshine boys,…

Bricks and mortar

Tin was 13 when she dropped out of school. It wasn’t that she disliked school; in fact she loved to study and was a good student. But living up in the mountains, in a remote ethnic community, meant that getting to school was an ordeal. She couldn’t travel to and from every day; it would take at least 2 hours each way, and that was in good weather. Her only chance to stay in school was to move away from home and live in a shared room near the school.…

Ode to Joy, and Sorrow

Mr Triem dropped by the Blue Dragon centre in Hanoi on Friday afternoon with an invitation. A renowned pianist, Mr Triem and his soprano wife Xuan Thanh have retired from public life and spend their days teaching the Hope Choir, a band of blind students who over the years have performed for visiting dignitaries – including Bill Clinton – as well as countless charity events around the city. Triem and Xuan Thanh are an extraordinary couple. As someone with no musical talent whatsoever, I marvel at the magic they conjure…

The cool kids

Thuan has a new piercing this week. He saved up money from his part time job and went down to the parlour around the corner from Blue Dragon. Like some other teens from our Hanoi centre, he now has multiple earrings, a few tattoos, and his hair is dyed another colour every other day. It’s all very inexpensive – the kids do much of this “self renovation” work themselves – but the result is incredibly cool. Trang doesn’t have any piercings, but she has defined herself through movement. In just a few short…