During the past few weeks, most of my work has involved speaking at schools, Rotary Clubs and on radio. It doesn't seem like work at all - in fact it's mostly been a lot of fun, albeit very tiring at times.
My hope on these trips is to raise money for the work of Blue Dragon, of course, and also to raise awareness of the issues we deal with in Vietnam. To keep our costs low, I've been really lucky to have flights from Jetstar, and a couple of families have hosted me in their homes. Here in Tasmania, one wonderful family have not only given me the run of their house, but their car as well, which is most fortunate considering I'm covering about 200km per day.
In these past few days, I have had a couple of quite touching experiences. My time in Tasmania is almost entirely about visiting schools and speaking - about Vietnam, about Blue Dragon, and about the kids who I see every day at our centre. While some of the schools I visit are fairly well-off independent schools with beautiful facilities and students from generally privileged backgrounds, I've spent just as much time in local public schools where most students are from disadvantaged backgrounds themselves. I've even been off in the countryside, at schools like Campania and Triabunna District High Schools, which I guess don't get too many visitors from Vietnam!
I've been moved to see how students at all schools, no matter what their background, have expressed concern for the plights of kids their age in other countries. When I talk at schools, I am very careful to not give a sales and marketing pitch with a plea for cash at the end, but I am invariably asked by the kids: How can I help?
I like to believe that we're pretty careful with our funds at Blue Dragon. We certainly don't splash out on expensive cars or business class flights or any other extravagances; we do our best to keep things basic and 'down to earth.' Some events over this last week have reminded me of how important it is for Blue Dragon to stay that way.
Today, after I spoke in one school, the student council presented me with an envelope of cash they had collected from their fundraising that morning. But one of the teachers, who didn't even identify himself (or herself!) to me sent up an extra $50. One of the students walked up and said "I'd like to make a donation too," and handed me $5. I just didn't know what to say.
At another school, out in the countryside, one of the boys approached me after my presentation and asked if he could use his participation in a motorbike race to raise money for us.
The generosity of people around the world is a beautiful thing. Each year when I travel about Australia, New Zealand and Singapore trying to raise funds for our kids I miss being in Vietnam, and long to get back to our centre.
But seeing how much people - including school kids - truly care, and are interested, in the street kids of Vietnam is a huge inspiration to me.