Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Still linked

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the importance of providing ongoing support to victims of human trafficking rather than just the initial 'big bang' of the rescue trip.

Since then, I have been thinking about some of the street kids who have been with Blue Dragon over the years. There are kids at our centre, now in their mid to late teens, who have been around for 5 years or more.

One particular group of kids have been familiar faces at Blue Dragon since 2006. I met them when they were living on the streets: some had been there for years already, while others were new to Hanoi and had joined up with the group only recently.

These same kids are mostly unrecognisable now.  In 2006, they were dirty and barefooted; one of the boys once told me he preferred to go without shoes because he could run away from the police faster that way.

Their behavior was wild; other kids feared them, and even some of the staff were afraid to get involved.

 2007: The Link kids in a cooking class at Blue Dragon.

Reaching out to the boys - there were 8 altogether - was not only difficult, it was also controversial for us. Local police wondered what on earth we were doing working with kids they considered among their 'most wanted'! Some staff objected to the boys being around: they were often in fights, they were demanding and loud, and they refused to 'fit in' with our expectations of kids at the centre.

After about a year, we developed a program which we called "The Link." In a way, it was to create a new group for the kids to join - it was an alternative to the gangs running wild on the streets. I wrote about them here, back in October 2007.

I could write a book about the adventures, trials, joys and disasters that took place over the next few years with the Link boys. Much of it is only amusing in hindsight! Some of the boys have come and gone; 2 are in prison now, and 1 has vanished but is probably in prison somewhere. When they come out, we'll catch up again and maybe even help them get back on their feet.

So they certainly have not all done spectacularly well. But some have.

One has recently finished an apprenticeship as a trainee motorbike mechanic, and has just returned to his countryside to help out in the family business.

Two are working in restaurants; one is doing particularly well as a barman and comes in to the centre to study English several times a week.

And even those kids who are not employed right now are still in contact, still linked in to Blue Dragon in their own ways. The door is always open to them, and they connect with us at least a couple of times each month.

Perhaps the real success of Blue Dragon is something that can only be properly measured in years to come, when we look back at the thousands of street kids we've brought in to our family and see how they've progressed over time.

Until then, there are plenty of indications that our work is all worthwhile.


Alison said...

No question that your work is worthwhile Blue Dragon. Inspirational! :)

Alison said...

Your work is most definitely worthwhile Blue Dragon. You're amazing! :)