Time for an update on some Blue Dragon kids who I've blogged about in the past...
Ngoc the First
Our "first Ngoc" came to us in late 2005 (see here for the first story); we had rescued Ngoc from child traffickers and, at age 13, sent him to school for the first time in his life. Ngoc's a bright kid - he took to school easily (although he certainly isn't passionate about academics!) and quickly mastered his lessons. Over the last couple of years he has been living in our residence, and growing taller every day... He's about as tall as me now, and he stands head and shoulders over most of our staff! (Brown rice is the secret - I swear it makes a difference).
As the school year draws to an end, Ngoc is doing his Grade 4 exams and planning to head home to Hue for the summer. In September, he'll start Grade 5, which is the final year of Primary School, and then has to decide whether he'll continue at school or switch to vocational training.
Ngoc the Second
In September 2007, Blue Dragon brought a 13 year old boy named Ngoc from Hue to Hanoi for cleft lip surgery. (See some earlier stories here). His family was so poor, and his parents illiterate, so nobody ever took Ngoc for the simple surgery that would have healed his lip. Instead, he was the village outcast. Whenever I visited his home on the sand, I would see adults and children alike mock him. Ngoc had learned to completely tune out - he was often unresponsive to questions and displayed few social skills. He'd never been to school so had no idea how to read and write.
After the surgery, we took Ngoc home to his village, and everything seemed much better. But several weeks later, Ngoc called us to ask if he could come back to Hanoi. He wanted to go to school, which was completely out of the question where he lived. And, although he was being treated much better, he still longed for the respect and care he received while he was with us.
So we agreed, and Ngoc has been living in the Blue Dragon residence ever since. He's about to finish first grade, and he often studies with tutors and social workers at our drop-in centre. I don't think Ngoc has ever been in a fight, and the staff have never had to discipline him for anything! He loves being here, and he's making the most of every opportunity.
Ngoc the Third
In early December 2007, one of our older teen boys, named Ngoc, was stabbed and left for dead by some thugs who had been paid to kill someone with a similar name. The original post is here, with follow up stories here and here. We were all terribly afraid for Ngoc, but he came through (minus a kidney) and is now finishing Grade 11. He seems even thinner than ever, but he's in good health now and looking forward to having a long break over summer.
Sometimes when I talk to Ngoc about his future, he says he'd like to become a lawyer. In just over a year, he'll be sitting exams and preparing to enter uni. Maybe we'll be employing him a s child rights advocate a few years down the track!