Friday, July 21, 2006

Mothers, swimmers, and dragons

It's midday Friday, and I am sitting in my office at the Blue Dragon center.

The last 24 hours have been quite full, and I am still processing what I have seen and done.

Thursday morning started in Hue, in Central Vietnam, where Blue Dragon has helped about 25 families whose children were trafficked to Saigon. Our lawyer, Van, met me there (I travelled north from my holiday in Hoi An, he travelled south from Hanoi) so that we could see the families and make sure they were able to enrol their kids for the coming school year.

As we travelled about, we came across a quite exceptional family living on the beach.

Their house was tiny and cramped, made of scrap and lacking electricity. We only saw the mother, as the father was out working as a fisherman.

The four children were home - including the youngest two, who were infant twins, born by caesarean.

Van and I were drawn to this home by an unusual sight: a huge frame, hanging near the door, filled with certificates of excellence from the school of the two older children - 10 certificates in all.

This mother was so proud of her children's achievements that she had given their certificates pride of place in the home. Her son and daughter study at night by tiny oil lamps - undoubtedly to the detriment of their vision - but despite all of their hardships, they are succeeding.

And that's not all. Here's the real twist to the tale: A trafficker named Phuc has come to buy the children, offering nearly $200 each. The trafficker has come five times to try to convince the mother.

Five times.

The family could use the money to pay off most of their debt.

Or they could get the electricity connected.

Or they could repair their tiny house.

But this mother wants her kids in school, and she refuses to succumb to the trafficker's pleas.

What a beautiful mum.

Now that I am back at work, I have a mountain of paperwork to see to - so I did the only sensible thing this morning, and went swimming.

While I was on holiday, our staff started swimming lessons for street kids. Each adult is responsible for teaching just 2 or 3 kids.

What a great thing to see: children who love the water actually learning how to swim, how to survive.

I had expected that the kids would be most interested in playing about rather than learning, but what I saw this morning was terrific - they were really putting an effort into practising their breathing, or strokes, and asking the teachers questions about technique. Well done, kids! You've given me a way to avoid my work while feeling that I am doing something good.

(Swimming photos by Adam Hurley - thanks Adam!)

And finally - some Aussie dragons. Sophie from the Shout! group at North Sydney High recently sent me a CD of photos of her school mates dragon dancing earlier this year to raise funds for Blue Dragon.

Dragon dancing is a common activity in Vietnam and China, loaded with symbolism and tradition.

The girls at North Sydney might not have captured all of that symbolism and meaning - but more than made up for it with enthusiasm and laughs!

Thanks, girls.


Virtual-Doug said...

With my old association with Hue, this story struck home. I don't know exactly where the village is, but I know that area south of thuan An well.

What can be done for that family?

Virtual-Doug said...

With my old association with Hue, this story struck home. I don't know exactly where the village is, but I know that area south of thuan An well.

What can be done for that family?

Blue Dragon said...

Hi Virtual Doug! How are things in sunny Texas? We are going to try to get an official program off the ground in that village, but that could take some time... For that particular family, we've started up some monthly sponsorship to pay school fees and provide some rice. I hope that one day soon we might be able to build them a new house - let's see how things go!

SHOUT! said...

Hey M!
Finally figured out how to create an account on this thing (technologically impaired) Wow, it's great you mentioned us, i'll be sure to read that out next assembly! Thanks a mill!

Sounds like that family is being incredibly strong, hope all goes well with that (don't fail to let us know if you need fundraising.. we like to fundraise :P)