One of our volunteers, Amy, received a frantic late night phone call from a girl in our Hanoi program named Yen. Aged 16, Yen is one of our stars - she's bright and compassionate, and gets involved in everything that's happening.
Yen came to us over a year ago when we started working with one of her school mates, Hieu, who has cerebral palsy. I won't say that Hieu 'suffers' CP - she makes the best of life and is doing really well at school - but of course she does suffer from plenty of discrimination everywhere she goes. Yen is not only Hieu's best friend, but also her number one advocate to stick up for her when times are tough. Yen's just that kind of person.
So when she came across an endangered animal last week and saw that it was about to be trafficked, Yen was desperate to find a way to save it.
Some months back, we took a group of our kids, including Yen, to Cuc Phuong National Park. One of the animals that they saw for the very first time was a culi (pictured), which is found in northern Vietnam and some parts of southern China. There aren't many of them, and most people don't even recognise them, but when Yen saw one here in Hanoi she sure knew what it was, and that it belonged on the forest, not in the city!
But the culi was in the hands of a friend's family who planned to sell it; and the buyers were pretty mean looking people. I don't know what the asking price was - but it was a lot. The culi was clearly worth something, and Yen couldn't convince the family to hand it over to conservation agents.
Finally, she did what she hoped would save the culi: she offered to buy it herself. Using her own money, she bought the culi from her friend's family, saving it from being trafficked... or eaten.
And so the culi landed in my office for the day. Thanks to some friends who work in conservation we were able to work out what to feed the little guy, and he spent a day cowering among leaves inside a cardboard box.
At the end of the day some animal rescue people came to take our new friend away, and he's now living happily ever after in Cuc Phuong National Park. For Yen especially, and her friend Hieu as well, this was a great chance to put their love of nature into action.