Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Our conquering heroes return

The Hoi An Children's Home is home to 30 girls and boys from central Vietnam who would otherwise have no place to live. Blue Dragon has been working there since August, when we took responsibility for managing and funding the entire operation.

The kids there are great; they all go to school and generally do well in their studies. The Home is a two storey building with some pretty big gardens; and of course it's all situated in Hoi An town, one of the most beautiful places in Viet Nam.

It's all ideal; except that getting staff to work there has been a challenge for the past few months. An Australian volunteer, Nicole, is the manager, and relies on a small team of Vietnamese social workers and carers to look after the children around the clock. But being located in such a small town, it's taken longer than we'd hoped to get all the staff in place.

When the main social worker decided to turn off his mobile phone and treat himself to an extended holiday, I decided to send down some help from our Hanoi center, where we have 4 social workers. The idea was to give Nicole some breathing space while she continued her search for new staff.

Our youngest social worker, Diep, was keen to take on the assignment; he's just 18 years old, and was a street kid shining shoes when I met him 4 years ago. Although Diep doesn't have any formal qualifications, he's an amazing social worker with a heart of gold. All the kids, without exception, love and respect him.

And so I also suggested that one of our kids should accompany Diep to help out: a 16 year old boy named To Cuong, who is a member of our Link program. Sending To Cuong was playing a wild card: we really didn't know how that would work out. To Cuong is well known for his colourful vocabulary, and has been living on the streets on and off for the past two years. We really weren't sure if he'd be more help than hindrance, but wanted to give him a chance.

On Wednesday afternoon, Diep and To Cuong returned to Hanoi, having completed their two weeks in Hoi An.

Diep's time at the Home was spent supervising kids, organising games and activities, helping with homework, and being a big brother. To Cuong was assigned some dirtier tasks, like gardening and cleaning.

And by all accounts, they have achieved some remarkable outcomes. The residents were all terribly sad to see them go; they held a party on Monday night to say farewell, but they are all hoping that Diep and To Cuong can return.

For To Cuong, this was an opportunity to rise to the occasion - and he did. As far as I know, his behaviour was perfect the whole time! He didn't complain at all about the work, but was eager to do all that he could.

This is a huge achievement for both To Cuong and Diep. Days like this, I really do believe that anything is possible.

No comments: