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Bringing out the best

A few weeks ago, Vietnam celebrated an annual day to honour the Kitchen Gods. Right before Lunar New Year, legend has it that the Kitchen Gods ride to heaven on the back of a fish to report to the other Gods about how things are going down on earth. To mark the day, Vietnamese people release a live fish into rivers and lakes. As with many traditions, the custom of releasing the fish has been given a modern slant. Men and women riding their motorbikes to work in the morning buy…

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Heroes among us

Trong has a mobile phone business. He buys and sells second hand phones from a shopfront in a winding alley in Hanoi. All day long, people stop by to recharge their phone credit, or repair their broken screen, or sell the phone they bought a few weeks ago but now can’t afford. It’s a booming business, and in his spare time Trong dreams of opening a second shop so his brother has a job too. But first he hopes to marry his sweetheart – once he convinces her parents to agree to…

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Endless night

Cleaning out my desk at home, I stumbled across an old photo. It was taken 12 years ago by a teenager who had just joined Blue Dragon and was learning photography with a volunteer. The photo is of a little girl aged 3 or 4, living in the Long Bien market of Hanoi with her grandmother. They are squatting in absolute filth beneath a staircase that crosses the dike wall; the entire sum of their possessions is a rotting blanket, a straw mat, and some scrap in plastic bags. I don’t…

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A major gift

When it comes to fundraising, charitable organisations talk about ‘major gifts’: the grants and donations that are ‘major’ in terms of their size compared to the charity’s budget. They are ‘major’ because of their impact on what the organisation can do. But another way to look at ‘major gifts’ is from the point of view of the person giving the gift – the donor. A gift of $10,000 might not be a significant sum for a billionaire to donate; but $20 might be a major gift from a retiree or…

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A journey begins

Life is a long story.  These are the words written by ‘Tung’, one of the boys of Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation in Vietnam. He’s a boy who has been abandoned by his family; repeatedly lied to by his parents; sexually abused by dozens of men, both Vietnamese and international; and fed with meth to dull his pain and keep him subservient. But he’s also a boy who has decided, against all likelihood of success, to not let his life be defined by these afflictions. Over the course of the past 9…

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