Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Home, under the bridge

ONCE UPON A TIME, a potential donor was visiting Blue Dragon to talk about funding possibilities.

We were introducing him to some young people we'd been working with for almost two years. We were very proud of those kids.

During the meeting, the donor said he had a problem. It was this:

The kids were too good.

They were clean. They had nice clothes. They were polite.

They didn't look like street kids.

It's the main Catch-22 that Blue Dragon - and other charities like us - face. People want to help helpless, dirty waifs in rags. I know of one charitable center here in Hanoi where the Director gratefully accepts donations such as big TVs and nice clothes - but as soon as the donor is gone, the donations go into storage. Otherwise, the next donor might think that the center is already well equipped and doesn't need any help!

Blue Dragon's policy is different. We don't want our kids to look poor. We don't want visitors to walk in and see street children; we want our kids to look just like anybody else their age. And to tell the truth, we don't mind if that turns away a donor or two. The wellbeing and happiness of the kids are simply more important.

THIS WEEK we face a challenge with some kids who definitely qualify as 'helpless, dirty waifs in rags'. On the way to drumming on Sunday, I saw a couple of boys looking absolutely filthy, collecting scrap near the office. SO I invited them back and spent some time chatting. Late for drumming again...

The boys are living with some friends under a bridge - yes, that photo is actually their home. At least some of the kids are runaways; our experience in working with kids like this is that it takes time for them to trust us. And it's only when they trust us that they'll start telling us the truth.

Until then, anything that they say might or not be true, and our staff don't pass judgement on anything.

These boys are really doing it tough - I wouldn't trade places with them for anything! Even our other kids here at the center are shocked to see where they live.

Nothing like a challenge to start the week, though...

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