The Blue Dragon kids celebrated a terrific milestone last week: the 10th annual Tet Awards.
Every year, for the last 10 years, we've held a ceremony to mark the end of the lunar calendar, and welcome the coming year. The original idea was to give each child a chance to stand in the spotlight and shine, and 10 years later that's still what we do. These days there are about 500 kids joining in, so it's a bit bigger than when we started and even more fun!
So here are 10 things I loved about the 10th annual Tet Awards.
1. The kids had a chance to shine - and that's what they did. They organised their own performances. They sang and danced. They MCed the night. Everybody left the event feeling proud.
2. Children who have been with us just a few weeks were there, along with kids we met more than 10 years ago. It was like a massive family reunion, and everybody had a smile or hug to share.
3. Local businesses pitched in. Accor Hotels made sure we had cookies for everyone. Ecopark donated money for the food. Don's Bistro sent along a staff team to help with food preparation for the entire day! People were really generous to make sure the kids had a great night.
4. Looking at the joy in the kids' faces, nobody could imagine the hardships they have endured. There were kids who got up and sang, or received awards on the stage, who just a year ago were living through the most horrific experiences. Seeing how they have bounced back and embraced their second chance at life is profoundly inspiring.
5. There were teens performing hip hop to rap songs, kids acting out comedies, and little children dressed as fairies singing "happy birthday"... and the whole crowd loved all of it.
6. 500 kids packed into the hall. All are from disadvantaged and troubled backgrounds, but there was not a single moment of bad behaviour as the stereotypes would have you believe.
7. Everyone wanted to take a photo! A few days after the event, the kids' Facebook pages are still buzzing with their memories and pictures of the night.
8. Kids who are blind, or deaf, or have any type of physical or intellectual disability joined right in along side kids without any disability. There was not an ounce of discrimination.
9. Volunteers pitched in to make everything perfect. Friends from around Hanoi came to take the photos, serve food, set up the hall, and paint the kids' faces. Nobody expected to be thanked; they just wanted to make it a great night for the kids.
10. And the Blue Dragon staff came out in force once again. They spent weeks getting ready - in fact preparation started in December. Not a murmur of complaint from anyone... and not a single person failed to lend a hand. Everyone, from the social workers to the cleaners to the driver, worked together to make this a special event.
A ten-year anniversary is an important occasion. The kids had a great night, but in truth so did all of us. I say this every year, but I think this may have been our best Tet Awards yet!