Tuesday, May 29, 2007
Sunday, May 27, 2007
And while we're at it... Some AMAZING students from United World College in Singapore spent some time with our kids back in March - teaching rollerskating, and painting a house. Here's a movie they've posted in YouTube:
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Yesterday, a team of social workers, uni students, and 4 street kids from our center spent the day scrubbing, painting and rebuilding. That's the group below, with the exception of Mr Hai who took the photo. This is the 'after' shot - notice the difference!
The nice new look for the house was intended as more than a paint job. It was our way of showing this family that we care for them. It also gave some of our street kids, who receive a lot of help from us, to give back to the community.
A happy day for all. I hope we'll be doing more projects like this soon.
Friday, May 11, 2007
With Hoi An, I had no 'love at first sight' experience. One of the first things I did there was book a ticket to leave. The town itself struck me as being beautiful, but somebody tried to rob me (inside my hotel room!) and some of the street vendors were driving me crazy.
But something changed: I met a family. "Big Nam", the head of the household, was selling ceramics in front of his shabby, run down house. He was very poor, but had taken in a street kid - "Baby Nam" - and was raising him as a son. This family was so warm and welcoming that I changed my mind - and my ticket - very quickly. My love affair with Hoi An had begun.
I've been back there at least 20 times since. It's where I spend my holidays, and my favourite place to go to the beach. Hoi An is very quiet, with its own pleasant pace of life and a very relaxed attitude.
While I'm there, I usually visit a children's center, called Cahors. About 30 girls and boys live together under the supervision of the elderly Mrs Diep. She's been there since the center opened, about 12 years ago. The kids are orphans, or from extremely poor families in the districts around Hoi An.
As a Center, there's obviously a welfare aspect to Cahors. The children live there, eat there, and grow up there. But the real reason that the kids are at Cahors is to go to school. Without the Center, they'd be street kids.
Cahors is a great place, but has been seriously under-resourced for some years. Different groups have pitched in to help - NGOs, local associations, and individuals - but Mrs Diep and the kids never know how their next set of bills will be paid.
Over the last few days, I have been in Hoi An again. This time, I was not on holiday. This trip was about Blue Dragon getting involved in the running of the Center, to help out with the long term needs.
Blue Dragon has been involved at the Center for some years already. A few months back, when the roof blew off the building, I posted a blog and some good friends sent some money to get the place fixed. Long before that, I've been visiting the kids, providing bicycles at times, and helping out with small needs here and there. So our involvement there is nothing new: but we're about to start working in a new way.
If all goes to plan, Blue Dragon will begin working there on a permanent basis, starting in April. We'll be taking our unique social work and psychology program to the kids, which means individual planning and a 'whatever it takes' approach to getting kids out of poverty.
The really great part to all this is that the Center's children will be the winners. They come from difficult backgrounds, which for various reasons mean that they can't go on living with their families. Living at a children's Center is only a second best solution. Our goal is to make it worthwhile and fulfilling for everyone there.
Sunday, May 06, 2007
Today I'm heading out of Hanoi with some key members of Blue Dragon to work on our project in Hue. On Tuesday we'll head to Hoi An to talk with officials there about supporting a street children's program.
Will write an update when I return!
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
One of our kids, a boy named Ky, has been accepted into the KOTO training program.
Ky was a shoeshine boy for some years, and turned up at our weekly football game one Sunday in early 2005. His background is tougher than many of the kids we have met, and he's had a really difficult time over the last year and a bit. When we first knew him, his behaviour was kinda unpredictable, but we were patient and forgiving... and expected him to improve. So he did.
This latest milestone sets him on a path to develop his vocational skills over 18 months, preparing him for a career as a chef or a waiter.
Being accepted into KOTO is an accomplishment in itself. KOTO is a foreign-owned training restaurant, with limited placements and a reputation for high quality. It's almost certainly the best hospitality training organisation in Vietnam. Only one Blue Dragon kid has been accepted into KOTO before today.
And so, Ky is moving on... but never leaving. He'll move out of our residence in coming weeks, as KOTO trainees have their own accommodation. But he will still be part of our family, and I guess I'll be going to eat at KOTO more often now.