Mai is seven years old, and has always lived in fear.
Her mother loves Mai and her younger brother and sister very much, but their home is dominated by their grandmother, whose violence has ruled their lives since birth. Their mother is powerless to protect the three tiny children.
Domestic violence in Vietnam is often seen as a private matter, for families to sort out for themselves. When children are the victims, it may be seen just as a matter of harsh but necessary discipline – and the right of the parents, or grandparents, to decide.
Mai and her siblings endured severe beatings every other day. The neighbors and community around them simply could not look away. When a call came to Blue Dragon asking for help, the children bore bruises on their faces and bodies that spoke of deeply disturbing abuse.
Through our daily work, we often see young people in desperate situations. But the sorrow on Mai’s face was like nothing else.
Police came and started the process of investigation. Statements from the children. Interviews with the mother and grandmother. Reports from the local community.
Mai and her brother and sister had entered the very adult world of criminal investigation and judicial processes… but they are safe.
Taken into Blue Dragon’s care, they had their first proper sleep in many months. Nothing to fear, no screaming and no beatings. And most of all, each of them slept for the first time with a new friend – soft toys that they clung to through the night.
For Mai and her little brother and sister, these dolls are more than just toys. They are friends to hold onto, to see them through the many changes that they are now going through. A new home. New beds to sleep in at night. New people around them, speaking with quiet and calm words that are unfamiliar to them.
Everything is different. But Mai’s friend, a soft pink toy dog, goes with her everywhere.
In a play session one day at Blue Dragon, Mai told the psychologist: “I will bring my pinky friend wherever I go as she makes me feel that I am not lonely. But she has a hole… Can you help me with that?”
Her psychologist ensured her that they could patch up the hole to make her pinky friend beautiful again. Mai smiled happily and told the soft creature, “You don’t need to worry. I will protect you just like you protect me.”
All that has happened, and all that is yet to come, may be too complex and horrible for Mai to understand. But with her pinky friend in her arms and a safe bed at night, she knows she is going to be OK.
Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation rescues kids in crisis.