When Blue Dragon was just beginning, our focus was on getting street kids and homeless children into safe homes and schools. And while that's still a large part of what we do, along the way something else has happened: those kids have grown up and many have set their sights on tertiary studies and careers.
This month, 12 Blue Dragon kids are graduating from university and college. Every other day, one of them turns up at Dragon House, an envelope of results in hand, to proudly tell us that they've finished.
To help the kids through their studies, Blue Dragon offers scholarships, which are part loans and part grants. The loans are interest free and repayable over several years; we've tried to find the delicate balance of making the scholarship program sustainable without adding an unbearable burden on the students.
We've only been operating the loan scheme for a couple of years, but already the kids' commitment to repaying their loans is remarkable. Just a few weeks ago, Chinh (pictured below) graduated from her law degree and came to repay her loan immediately, from savings at her part time job. What makes this even more remarkable is that Chinh is blind.
Another recent graduate is Minh, pictured in the black shirt. This photo was taken in 2005 at a Blue Dragon United soccer game; at the time, Minh was one of our youngest (and smallest!) players.
(Click here to learn about Blue Dragon United).
Minh's huge smile belied a very difficult life, but after coming into contact with Blue Dragon through the weekly soccer games, things started to turn around. We gave him and his mother all the help they needed to get Minh through school; and now, 9 years later, Minh has just graduated with a degree in Tourism. He's worked hard to get this far, and with the right support along the way he's achieved some great results. Now he can't wait to find his first job and start leading tours through Vietnam!
In many ways, Chinh and Minh are just regular kids: they're university graduates who have done their best and set their hopes high. Their personal hardships, however, have been much greater than most have to bear, making their success even more inspiring.
Vietnam, and our world, needs more people like them.