Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Greetings from Sozo

Once again I am blogging from steamy Saigon. Blue Dragon's work here in the south is growing each month; for the past two days I have been meeting street kids from all over Vietnam, talking to them about why they are here and what they want to do with their lives. As always, I am finding everybody friendly and helpful. I really love this work.

Last night I had dinner with Hoang, who was a shoeshine boy when I first met him and now studies in a college. He's such an inspiration.

I also got talking to some girls from Hue, one aged 11 and the other 15. They have both been trafficked to Saigon to sell flowers and chewing gum. The smaller girl, Huong, told me sadly how she would be beaten if she could not sell all of the flowers she had in her bag. If only that trafficker had been close by...

But today what I most want to mention is another charitable endeavour I have stumbled across: a cafe / centre called Sozo. I am writing this blog as I sit in their cafe, sipping dynamite coffee and breaking my vow to cut back on cakes.

Sozo employs families from disadvantaged backgrounds and trains them in baking, serving and running the business. Simple and brilliant.

I am often asked why Blue Dragon does not create a self-sustaining business, along the lines of the Sozo model. But for us it's a bit different. Most of our kids are - well, kids. They should be in school, and playing, rather than running a shop or a restaurant.

Sozo is different, though: it's working with families, young adults, and people with disabilities. And they're doing a really professional job.

I've got to get back to the streets! But for visitors to Saigon: go have a coffee in Sozo. I've only been to their Pham Ngo Lao centre (address: 176 Bui Vien Street) but they also have one at 844 Su Van Hanh.

Update: from 2016, Sozo is located at No. 51, 24A Street, Area 5, An Phu Ward, District 2.