There's a line in a U2 song that sometimes reminds me of the kids at Blue Dragon:
For the first time, I feel loved.
It might sound corny, but I've seen this over and again with children and teens who come to us, having never before found someone who genuinely cared for them.
Last week our social workers asked one of the Blue Dragon girls to write about her life, entirely from her own point of view. We do this occasionally as part of our reporting to donors and keeping records of our impact.
The girl's story is below (translated into English, but otherwise true to the original). I've changed only the names of the people. It's a deeply touching story.
My name is Van. I am 12 years old. I was born in a very poor family and I didn’t know where I came from until I knew Blue Dragon. My mum left me and my father when I was more than 1 year old. My father didn’t have a job so everyday my father and I worked on the street. I couldn’t go to school because I didn’t have a birth certificate. We rented a small room to live day by day. We had to face hunger, cold and so on. But my life wasn’t only that sad.
When I turned 9 years old, my father died on his way to work. Some strange people took my father to the hospital but he died that day. I now have no relatives. I didn’t know where to go and how to look after myself.
After my father died, I lived with a woman who wanted to be my adopted mother but she never considered me as her child. She called me by a very bad word. She asked a school for disadvantaged children to allow me to study there. But when I studied at grade 2, she didn’t let me go to school anymore. She treated me very badly. I had to work with a parking guy at a lake in Hanoi from 8am to 10pm. I often was beaten by the woman and forced to work very hard and late at night. I wasn’t allowed to go to school and had no idea of how special and real childhood should be.
Day by day I understood that this was not the life that I wanted, but I had no power to escape. I was afraid of who would feed me, who would give me a place to stay... So I kept silent and waited for a chance.
One day, I met a staff member from Blue Dragon, his name is Thai. He talked to me in a very soft and warm way. That was the first time in my life a person cared about my feelings and asked me what I wanted. My owner knew about that and she wouldn’t let me meet him again. She also threatened Thai and warned him to not talk to me again. But Thai and Blue Dragon staff still approached me when they could and talked to me.
One day after that, I was beaten very badly by my owner. I ran away and came to Blue Dragon to ask for support. There was a social worker and psychologist who talked to me. Even though I was very sad and frightened about what happened, they made me welcome and relaxed.
I knew that my 'mother' wouldn’t let me go easily like that. She threatened Thai, the worker who tries to protect me. However, Blue Dragon still continued to help and protect me by asking the police and a lawyer to be involved in making sure that I am safe and secure.
Now I don’t have to work on the street for that woman. She treats me better as she knows that someone is checking what she does with me. In addition, Blue Dragon is looking for my brother who I have never met to help me to get out of her control. I go to school in the mornings. Blue Dragon is helping me to make a birth certificate. I also have a chance to be a child and join in many different social activities. I hope I will learn well so I can discover the world, and maybe even study overseas.