Greetings from Ho Chi Minh City! I've escaped to the warm south for a few days to kick off the new year. Back to the cold, cold north soon.
For now - a quick roundup of Christmas and new year at Blue Dragon.
All the kids at our shelter in Hanoi had a festive "lau" at Truc Bac lake in the lead up to Christmas. Lau is a food along the lines of hotpot - and it's a real treat for our kids. They went off for karaoke afterwards, but I didn't join them for that!
On Christmas day, I went to the Sofitel Plaza with a couple of staff and a lot of kids for a meal in their Chinese restaurant. This was completely on the house - the Sofitel management went out of their way to give us a good time. A very new experience for our kids!
A rowdy Christmas party at the drop in centre...
At the Hoi An Children's Home, a huge party lead by our wonderful staff...
In the days after Christmas, I traveled north to the mountains with Huong, one of our social workers, to visit a family of orphans. We had some gifts to make their lives a bit easier - including study desks and lamps, and money for them to pay for lunch at school each day.
The next day, Huong and Giang (another of our staff) traveled south of Hanoi to meet up with a family whose son has been living with us for the past 18 months. That trip was not so positive - seems the family have refused to let the boy, who is 15 and tiny, continue at school. He's only in Grade 2, but now he's being sent off to work, probably on the streets of Thanh Hoa city. We have some more work to do on that case.
Meantime our lawyer Van was in Ho Chi Minh City looking for kids who work in garment factories. He and the government representatives from Hue were able to secure the release of 6 kids; they'd been hoping for more, but with Lunar New Year coming up in February the factories are desperate to keep the kids working. A journalist traveled with the rescue team, and we'd been hoping for a write up but so far there's been none. There was this, however, so we can't say that there's nothing important in the newspapers over the holiday period. (Just read the photo caption - that says it all!)
Hopefully I'll have an update within the week of the kids who were rescued from the factories.