Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Where'd you get those shoes?

Here are some photos taken last week of two kids - one about 10 years old - who have been trafficked from central Vietnam to Ho Chi Minh City to work in a household factory making shoes. Something to think about next time you go shopping.

Monday, April 21, 2008

And now, a book

Feeling positive, punk?

Quotations for Positive People is a collection of inspiring quotes that has been compiled by Larry Welch - and he's offered to donate all of the profits to Blue Dragon! Thanks, Larry!

We're going to use the funds for some of our most positive work - providing homes to children who live on the streets. So, buy the book! Give it to your friends! Pay your staff in copies of the book rather than boring old cash!

Click here for more info:

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Rugby and Cheerleading

Last time I wrote about Blue Dragon kids learning to play rugby (see here), some friends from England seemed less than impressed that I referred to it as an Australian sport.

So, to clarify, I didn't mean to imply that the games STARTED in Australia; just that Australia thrashes England mercilessly every time we play. Sorry for the misunderstanding.

And there may come a day that when Vietnam has its own rugby team - our kids are really getting into the game now! Last weekend we took part in our first tournament, and did pretty well even though we didn't win the trophy (blast those French!)

When we first started to play, both girls and boys wanted to learn; but now with all of the tackling and grabbing and throwing to the ground, the girls just aren't so keen. They do want to be involved, though, so we have started a cheerleading squad... possibly the first in Vietnam?? (If anyone knows of any other cheerleaders in Vietnam, please let me know!)

Here are some pics... Blue Dragon players are in black.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

In Hue

I've just come back from Hue, where Blue Dragon's chief lawyer, Van, and I spent the last few days.

We've been working with families in Hue since 2005; one of my very first blogs was about a boy named Ngoc who we rescued from child traffickers in Ho Chi Minh City and took home to his family in Hue. And on Sunday, we officially launched our anti-trafficking program - the culmination of almost 3 years' work.

Back when we first started taking trafficked children home, it was unimaginable that we could ever be sitting in a room with government leaders, police, and education officials, announcing a formal program to support child victims of trafficking. But here we are. It was a very happy occasion.

Not all of our trip to Hue was so happy. Van and I spent some time with Chau, who is suffering terribly with cancer. He's in constant pain, despite some pretty powerful medication, and still hoping against hope that he will recover and find another job so her can support his parents.

Chau was working in a garment factory from the age of 14, and earned less than $200 a year. He only came home to his village because he was too ill to work any more. One thing we learned on the weekend is that Chau was sick for 7 months before going home. If only the factory owner had allowed Chau to seek proper medical treatment, it may well be that his cancer could have been treated and cured.

I'll be back in Hue in coming weeks to see Chau's family once more. There's not much that we can do now, except offer comfort and support.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Getting the girls

In the early days of Blue Dragon, when there was just me, a friend or two, and some ideas about helping street kids, we often came across the criticism that our programs almost entirely catered for boys, and not girls. One of the nuances of the NGO world is that it's fine to have programs specifically for girls, but it's something of a no-no to have programs for boys.

But we never intended to exclude girls; the problem was that we didn't know how to include them. Even when we had established a drop in center, we still found that girls rarely came.

Over time, we realised that it was a cultural issue. In Vietnam, boys have the freedom to hang out and go wandering through the streets, while girls are much more restricted by the social expectations that they will stay at home and look after the siblings or the cooking. Not unlike many other countries in the world.

Once we understood the problem, we could devise a solution. What we come up with was a more structured program of activities and classes that families would allow their girls to attend, particularly cooking and drama.

Since late 2007, Unilever has been supporting us to run cooking clubs, which we call "Healthy Dragons". Sometimes the clubs are lead by our social worker Phuong, but once a month Unilever sends one of their own chefs to conduct the lesson. The clubs are predominantly made of girls, but there's an increasing demand from boys now, as they see how cool the activities are (and how delicious the food is!)

And now that families are comfortable with the idea of their daughters coming to Blue Dragon, the girls are also more free to hang out in the drop in center. A huge shift has occurred in the past year or two; girls now represent almost exactly half of the kids in all of our programs. The clubs and activities have proven useful not only in getting the girls in, but also in teaching life skills and reaching girls in serious crisis.

Some pics from a recent weekend cooking club are below.