Over the past week, I have been on the road quite a bit - hence the blogging silence. Today I am blogging from a cafe in Saigon.
First stop on my trip was Hue, where Blue Dragon runs a program to help trafficked children. We've pretty much ended child trafficking in 3 villages, and are on the way to ending it in a fourth, so we now have to decide which village to move on to next. Plans are underway for a rescue trip in a few months time, so the staff have started gathering information from the community about which children have been taken, and where they might be now.
Even though the trafficking rings have been disrupted, we still have a commitment to working in the villages for a few years yet. We need to keep on supporting the families of children who were trafficked, and making sure the traffickers don't have any chance to come back.
To this end, we need to raise some funds to build a house for one family - more info about that in the Blue Dragon newsletter, which should be emailed out within a week. We're also helping one mother who is very sick and in hospital at the moment.
One village has asked us to build them a road to connect their homes to the highway, which will give them better access to local markets. We hope to be able to do that soon, too!
After Hue, I traveled south to Hoi An, where we have been working at the Hoi An Children's Home since 2007. Before we started at the Home, conditions were quite difficult for the kids: there was a Director and a cook, but no other staff to look after the children from day to day, and no formal structure to ensure the health and safety of the 30 girls and boys living there.
Now the Home has social workers and carers, ensuring supervision and support around the clock, along with a really well organised program of social work.
For the long term, the Home eventually needs to go back to being under local management, so Blue Dragon has started the first step in this direction. We've now partnered with another organisation based in Hoi An, called CHIA, which is now getting involved at the Home. By working closely with CHIA, we hope to improve services for the kids even more. A big part of my work in Hoi An on this trip was meeting with CHIA to discuss the practical aspects of such a partnership.... Doesn't sound very exciting, but it was really important and I'm confident that we've made some good decisions!
And now I am in Saigon, aka Ho Chi Minh City. Blue Dragon doesn't have any formal program here, but I need to visit some kids and other organisations, so I've managed to fit that in with a long weekend (it's Vietnamese national day today).
This morning I went to visit the Green Bamboo Shelter, a home for over 20 street kids. I met with Mrs Phat, the Director, who took the time to chat with me about how her Home works. Blue Dragon runs a similar Home in Hanoi, so it was quite cathartic to compare our struggles and challenges and see how similar they are!
Later today I will meet with one of the Blue Dragon kids from Hanoi who has been working in the south for some months. He's been learning motorbike repair, and is excited at the chance to catch up. And of course, I have already met up with Vu, who now carries his school bag with him absolutely everywhere (even on a public holiday!) and beams with joy pretty much continuously. What a kid.
Hopefully tomorrow I will go to visit the staff of Saigon Children's Charity, who helped enormously with Vu's case. And then - if the rain stops, I might behave like a tourist for a couple of days!