Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Big 2

In the past few days, we've held both of our major celebrations for the year, with about 550 kids joining in Blue Dragon's Lunar New Year parties.

On Sunday, some staff and kids travelled from Hanoi to Bac Ninh province where we sponsor about 350 girls and boys to attend school. The New Year celebration is one of several incentives for these kids and their families to stay at school; and it's also a chance for us to reward them for their commitment to study.

Sponsored kids waiting for the ceremony to begin
All of the sponsored children - most of whom are girls - receive our support because their families just can't afford the school fees and all the other costs. Once they drop out of school, the kids are targetted by traffickers who want them to work in garment factories.

A sponsored girl receiving her gift from staff member Diep.

Over the years, we have seen the kids grow up - literally - as they progress through school and deal with the slings and arrows of their lives. On Sunday I spoke briefly with a 15 year old girl named Hien, who was the first child that Blue Dragon ever built a house for. Hien and her mum were squatting in an abandoned house that was falling apart and infested with snakes and insects. That was about 3 years ago; Hien is now doing so well at school, and starting to think about university. Having a proper house to live in made such a difference.

And then on Tuesday we held the Third Annual Tet Awards celebration at the Revolutionary Museum. This is the night that we get together all the kids from our Hanoi program and acknowledge their hard work and achievements over the past year. All the kids get a chance to come onto the stage and receive a certificate and a gift, and there's also a Special Awards section in which the kids with exceptional progress are rewarded. The children perform dramas, sing, dance, and make speeches - it's such a special night. (I am already starting to plan next year's event!)

The recipients of the Special Awards on the night were:

Good Sports Award
presented by Mr Bill Tweddell, Australian Ambassador
N. T. Anh
N.H. Tai
P. B. Minh

English Speakers Award
presented by Dr James Kember, New Zealand Ambassador
N. T. Phuong
N.M. Nghia
... with an encouragement award to P.T. Hien

Hugh and Susan Adams Award for Self Improvement
presented by Michael Brosowski, Director of Blue Dragon
N. V. Trung
H. V. Ky
N. V. Minh
P. V. Hung

Creativity Award
presented by Nadine Ziegeldorf, Program Development Officer at Blue Dragon
N. V. Thuy
N. V. Son
N. P. Hanh

Computing Skills Award
presented by Mr Sean Hoy, Head of Irish Aid
N. N. Bao
N. T. Phuong
N. T. Van Anh
N. M. Nghia

Pham Sy Chung Award for Good Character
presented by Michael Brosowski, Director of Blue Dragon
Vu Thi Lam
C. V. Toan
L. D. Nghia

Strength in Adversity Award

presented by Tam Tran, Social Work Coordinator at Blue Dragon
N. T. Ngoc
N. T. Ba
H. Q. Tuan

Community Service Award
presented by Diana Rudolph, President of the Hanoi International Women's Club
B. T. Yen
V. T. Quyen
T. V. Cuong
N. V. Duong

Award for Academic Excellence
presented by Mr Daniel Selvanayagam, Director of World Vision Vietnam
B. T. Yen
L. T. Hieu
N. V. Can
... with an encouragement award to L. V. Cuong

Director's Award
presented by Michael Brosowski, Director of Blue Dragon
T. V. Ngoc
D. V. Chinh
N. T. Trinh

Out of the need for anonymity, I can't publish the kids' full names, but at the same time I want to boast of their extraordinary achievements and characters. Among these kids are a boy who was trafficked from his village but is now coming top of his classes at a private school; a girl who was kidnapped and sold to a brothel but is now looking for a job and getting her life together; a boy who almost died of tuberculosis meningitis but is now slowly regaining his health and learning carpentry; a blind girl who studies at a mainstream school; boys who used to steal in the markets for a living but now want to study and help others.... I could go on for hours. I want to go on for hours. But you get the idea.

It was a great night; and last Sunday in Bac Ninh province was also a great event. Such inspiring kids!