Wednesday, November 14, 2012

It's over; now it begins

This evening I had the huge pleasure of meeting the 21 kids who my team rescued from garment factories in Ho Chi Minh City this week.

I traveled out of Hanoi to Noi Bai airport to meet them all as they arrived. We spent some time together until they got on a bus and started the overnight drive to their village in Dien Bien province.

Make no mistake, these were children. They were tiny. Their faces shone with excitement at being on a plane for the first time: but no, it wasn't just that. They'd never seen an airplane before.

And make no mistake that this was a 'rescue'. The kids had a terrible time in these factories. Twelve children were kept in one workplace, where they worked and slept in a single 40 square metre factory. They had a single toilet/shower to share, and each child was allowed a maximum 8 minutes per day in there. Yes, the boss apparently kept time. This was Dickensian stuff.

I had wanted to get some photos to post, but a TV news crew popped out of nowhere and the kids were totally freaked out by the attention. I put my camera away. I'm sure readers here will understand.

One thing the kids don't know is how much support they have from around the world. In the last few days, Blue Dragon's Facebook page has had more comments and likes than ever before. I want to say a very humble and sincere 'thank you' to everyone who has taken the time to express their concern and interest in these 21 children. The kids might not know it, but my team is very aware of the support we've received. I want to say it again: Thank you.

And thank you also to all those who responded so quickly to our call for donations. Frankly, asking for money is not the highlight of our work at Blue Dragon, but we do it because money means we can help the kids. Simple as that. We asked for $2,100, and we received $2,250 from 22 different people. Perfect. We've already bought jackets for all the kids, and closer to their home we'll buy blankets and rice (we thought it would be good for their local economy).

On Thursday morning, the bus with 21 kids, Blue Dragon staff, and Vietnamese police will arrive in Dien Bien, and the children will be reunited with their families. Some have not had contact with their parents for 2 years. It will be an emotional time.

And then these gorgeous kids will head home, where they'll start to think about what happens next. Blue Dragon will stay in the picture for the foreseeable future. We'll help the kids to enroll at school, and provide emergency relief to families who need it, and work with the older teens to find decent jobs.

The story of misery and enslavement for these 21 kids is over. Now the story of the rest of their lives can begin.

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