At the time we were not thinking that, in years to come, some of those kids would be finishing school and dreaming of going to university. We were focused entirely on the immediate, pressing needs: food, safety, shelter.
But those kids have grown up and, as they have found themselves in safe places, they have allowed themselves to dream of the future. For some, that means studying in university or college and going on to have a career.
We sometimes find it difficult to balance the need for crisis services with the need to give kids long term stability. Our philosophy is that it's not enough to only deal with the immediate crisis that a find a child in: we aim to be there until they can achieve their dreams without us. And so, if the kids want to further themselves through tertiary study, we need to be there for them.
At present we have about 50 tertiary students. They study all around Vietnam, from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi, and they study in courses as varied as art, economics, civil engineering, and foreign languages.
Blue Dragon's approach, which we only started in the past year, is to give each of the students a combined grant and loan. The loan component is interest free, payable over several years after graduation, and those funds will go towards supporting more students in the future. It's a built in way of allowing our students to help other kids go to university.
Over the past 3 days, the Blue Dragon Tertiary students gathered in Hanoi for workshops, meetings and social activities. They stayed overnight in Dragon House, and during the day the Hilton Hanoi Opera Hotel donated the use of some meeting rooms - so the kids could really study in style!
The classes were great for many reasons. The kids learned a lot, they forged new friendships, and they had a chance to stand back and see how far they have come.
Some of the kids have long histories with Blue Dragon. One boy, Ngoc, was the focus of this blog back in 2007: Cut. Now he studies IT. Another, Than, appeared on the blog in 2009: I made this. Than studies at Art College now - no surprises there!
Seeing all the Tertiary Students together for the first time was a real treat. They are such mature young adults now, and yet I can't help but see them as kids.
We're grateful to Barclays Capital for funding the entire event; we wouldn't have been able to do this otherwise! A few photos below show the kids out enjoying some social activities in Hanoi.