Skimming through Blue Dragon’s social media can be an eye-opening experience.
Our Twitter (yep I’m still calling it that) feed is a good example. You’ll see announcements about completed rescue operations; news of court decisions in trafficking cases; stories about kids in sports or at school; and photos of rural families being given livestock.
It all seems a little disconnected. How is all of this part of Blue Dragon’s mission to end human trafficking?
To explain, let me share a story about a boy we’ve recently started helping.
Tai lives in an ethnic minority community in central Vietnam. Their village is in a mountainous region that is stunningly beautiful but, outside the highly developed tourist areas, remains extremely poor.
He’s 13 years old now. A little over a year ago, both of his parents fell ill. With no savings or steady income, Tai’s family were soon trapped in deep poverty.
With his school almost 14km away from home, Tai had no way to get there and back each day. His parents weren’t well enough to take him on their motorbike and he couldn’t afford to board with a family closer to town.
So that was it. Aged 12, Tai was out of school. Not because he wanted to quit; not because his family doesn’t value education. Simply because his parents were unwell and he had no way to travel there alone.
When the new school year was starting in September, Blue Dragon heard about this and went to see how we could help.
A few things were immediately obvious. Tai’s parents need medical treatment to improve their health. They need extra food to supplement their meagre diet and extra funds each month to see them through this period of hardship. So we’ve made a plan to support them for the next 6 months and we’ll see if they still need help after that.
Getting Tai to school each day is another matter. Until his parents are well enough to take him, we’ll ask one of his neighbours to help and pay them a little to cover their expenses.
For the longer term, we’re talking with the local government about a plan to organise a bus for all of the kids in Tai’s area to safely get to and from school each day, paid for by the state budget. It looks like this will happen in the new year.
To really celebrate Tai going back to school, we didn’t just buy his school supplies and drop them off. We took him to the shop to have the pleasure of choosing his own stationery, backpack and books . We wanted him to be part of the experience and not just a beneficiary of our help.
With all of this support, Tai can continue his schooling after an absence of a year and his family is on the road to stability once again.
We all agree that it’s important for kids to go to school and we all want families to have the dignity of being financially independent. But helping Tai is also important for another reason.
In Vietnam, the people who are most at risk of being trafficked and sold are members of ethnic communities – like Tai’s family.
And his village is located in a region where child trafficking has, until very recently, been a serious problem. It took Blue Dragon 10 years of constant work to put the traffickers out of business and we need to continue working to make sure they stay away.
Keeping Tai, his family and his village free from human trafficking involves all of these ‘small’ actions together. Helping parents who are ill. Providing a monthly allowance through tough times. Enrolling kids in schools and making sure they have a great experience there.
That’s the thread that ties all of Blue Dragon’s work together. And it’s much more than random acts of kindness here and there.
Helping a child like Tai go to school is a wonderful thing to do. But on its own, that won’t keep him or his family safe from human traffickers. To do that, we need to look holistically at the family’s health and housing, and also at the community around them. Paying a neighbour to take Tai to school will be very helpful for him in the short term. Making sure there’s a school bus to take all of the children to school will be helpful for everyone in the long term.
Resilience is safety
So that’s why Blue Dragon’s social media shares such an array of stories. To end human trafficking, we need to make whole families and communities resilient.
It’s a process that takes time and the actual need varies from place to place. In Tai’s village, a school bus will be part of the solution. In another place, it might be a boarding facility at the school or a new road that’s needed.
Blue Dragon will keep rolling out these clusters of activities where they are needed… And while we do that, kids like Tai can get on with being children in peace and safety.
With 2023 coming to a close, Blue Dragon is asking our friends around the world to consider a donation toward this important work. If you can, please include us in your year-end plans with a gift of any amount. Thank you!