Friday, May 24, 2013

The graduate

Blue Dragon's first rescue trip to find trafficked children was in 2006. A small team of us traveled to Ho Chi Minh City to meet kids who had been trafficked onto the streets from central Vietnam.

I was on that team, along with our lawyer Van, a volunteer named Eric, and a former street kid who is now a staff member at Blue Dragon - Vi.

We knew that dozens of kids from Hue province had been deceived into thinking they were going south for an education, and instead were being forced to sell flowers outside night clubs from 7pm to 3am every single night. Our objective was to get the kids home, and break up the trafficking ring.

We succeeded, and took a group of children home to their families in Hue. The trafficking ring gave up soon after.

One of the boys we met on that trip was named Can. He was from a very poor family in Hue province. Although they loved him very much, they had barely enough money to eat, let alone send their kids to school, and so they were very vulnerable to the trafficker's promises of a better life.When they learned what their Son was doing in the south, they just wanted him home.

Although we took Can back to his family at first, we later brought him north to Hanoi so that he could attend a good school. It was clear that Can was particularly bright and had a future in education. If he stayed at home, his prospects were limited, and his family just wanted what was best for him.

And so Can moved to Hanoi and lived in the Blue Dragon shelter. He worked hard - very hard - and soon was top of all his classes.

A few years later, Blue Dragon was presented with an amazing opportunity.

Chatsworth International School in Singapore offered us a 4 year scholarship for one of the kids. All expenses paid. Four years of an American High School diploma, in an international environment. Can was the immediate choice.

And so, in September 2009, Vi and I took Can to Singapore to begin his international education. Although his friends back in Vietnam always thought how lucky Can was, the truth is that 4 years of living away from home in a foreign country is difficult. It has never been easy for Can, but finally he has made it.

On Thursday, Can graduated from high school.

Can (on the left) and Vi: Can's first day at Chatsworth, 2009

Can's last day at Chatsworth - again with Vi! 

As he sat on the stage with his entire class, Can beamed through the graduation ceremony like nobody else. Vi and I attended, passing through Singapore on the way home from our fundraising trip to Australia, to watch as Can received his certificates.

Can is now not only a Blue Dragon boy; he's also a Chatsworth boy. He has achieved what was unimaginable back in 2006, and has so very much to be proud of.

This weekend, Can will return to Vietnam with us, and spend some time with family and friends. But the next big adventure is yet to come: university.

This is one young man who is really going places.