Saturday, March 04, 2006

Saturday soccer and travel

Ten of our street kids joined a soccer tournament today, organised by UNIS - the United Nations International School in Hanoi.

Our Sunday soccer games are played on dirt fields, often with 20-30 players per field. A proper game on the beautiful grass fields of UNIS is a real treat for our kids!

We lost more games than we won, but the kids had a great time - which was the whole point of the morning. BIG THANKS to Julian, Phi, and the UNIS staff who organised this.

Meanwhile, our lawyer, Van, was on a train heading south. Not on a holiday, though - he was accompanying a boy named Hai, who had run away from his home and was living under a bridge here in Hanoi.

The photo on the right shows Hai in the hole he lived in before we met him.

I met Hai just a few weeks ago; he and another child were collecting scrap by the roadside, and were covered in filth. Assisting runaway children is very difficult and sometimes dangerous for us. If we do help, we might be helping a child who has loving parents desperately hoping they will come home. If we don't help, any range of crises can (and do) befall the kids.

So our approach is to equip the kids with some sensible decision-making skills, and help them if they decide to return home. We've had a 100% success rate so far; but right now we are in contact with many more runaway boys, and have to hope that we can continue to achieve good results.

It's a lot of work: Van is spending close to 40 hours this weekend travelling by train, bus and motorbike to Hai's house just to ensure the reunion goes well. Probably another 20 hours have been spent with Hai these last few weeks, counselling, talking, encouraging, and helping him to call his parents.

A lot of work - but time well spent, I'd say.

There's been a lot of buzz recently around the Gary Glitter case, and I've been receiving plenty of calls from journalists around the world asking for my opinion on events. The big question is always about the Vietnamese government: Are they doing enough? Do they care?

For the record - you bet they do. Sex tourism and child prostitution are just not acceptable in Vietnam, and my gut feeling is that they authorities were pleased to have a chance to show the world that offenders caught here will be processed through the courts just like anywhere in the world. Mr Glitter now has three years in prison to think about this fact.

1 comment:

Kumar said...

Hey BlueDragon,

I can't begin to imagine how hard it must be to do what you're doing. But its an awesome thing to do what you're doing. My impression from when I visited Hanoi was that everybody worked. Even the oldest of old and the tiny little kids. It stood out that nobody begged. The entrepreneurial spirit of the people there was so visible. I came across a lot of different guys of my age (18-22) near Hoan Kiem selling books and trying to make a living and I appreciated them for trying to do that. I considered buying a few books from them just to support the cause (although I suspected that they were probably pirated cheap reprints). But your blog does highlight that deeper problem that living a just a few days there does not bring to light very well. Keep up the good work.