Following a fairly quiet week at Blue Dragon, we've had an eventful weekend.
Since Friday evening, we've been inundated with problems: a gang of pimps twice attacking kids from our shelters, an Asian sex tourist ring targeting underage boys we know, and on and on. So much so that I'm looking forward to Monday morning to put the weekend's headaches behind us!
But through this series of incidents, we've also seen some of the Blue Dragon kids show incredible courage and empathy.
Close to midnight on Friday, one of the boys in our care - "Son" - received a message from a girl he knows. She was terrified: some men had apparently abducted her and a friend, and they were locked into a room somewhere in Hanoi. As far as we know, the building was a brothel and the girls were being trafficked. They had no idea where they were or what was going to happen, but were able to use a smartphone to send messages through Facebook.
Son alerted our staff, who started communicating with the girls, but they suddenly went silent - we suspect the abductors had come back. We had pretty much no information at all that would enable us to find the girls, so our next step was to contact their families... but we didn't know who they were.
At this point, Son, who is only 17 years old, offered to help. He got on his bicycle and rode around the city to find other friends of the girls who knew where they lived, and then went to their homes to let them know what was happening. The families were in a panic, but they had an idea of who might have been behind the abduction. We don't know yet what they did, but by Saturday morning the two girls were safely home. Hopefully by the end of Monday we will have the full story.
If Son had not responded to his friends' message, or gone to find their families, we don't know what would have become of the two girls - but we can certainly imagine. It was close to 2am before Son finished and returned home, and because of his intervention the girls are now safe.
Later in the weekend, another of the Blue Dragon kids stood up for a friend in need. A former street kid named "Tu" has been living at home in the countryside but had some trouble with his family, and not knowing what to do he returned to Hanoi. Tu didn't want to tell us because he's a shy kid and fiercely independent - he wanted to work this out on his own.
But one of the Blue Dragon boys, "Nam," found out what was happening and went straight to the Long Bien Bridge, where Tu was hanging out in an internet café, to make sure he was safe. Nam encouraged Tu to come back to Blue Dragon's Outreach House; and although he was reluctant initially, Nam convinced him and they went back together to stay there for the night. Our Social Workers are involved now, and we hope to help Tu sort out the problem with his family in coming days.
If not for Nam's concern for his friend, Tu would have spent the night on the streets; and we know that homeless kids are extremely vulnerable to predators at the moment. Nam's intervention may have saved his friend from a pretty awful fate.
The Blue Dragon kids aren't always angels, but we see some outstanding leadership and compassion from many of them, both boys and girls. My team and I share a belief that caring for others is always worthwhile, and seeing the kids we help follow in our footsteps is a heart warming experience.
Most of the kids we meet have had terrible life experiences - that's why they come to Blue Dragon. For them to have an opportunity to do something good, and to really shine, is both a major step in their recovery and a wonderful opportunity for them to show that they are much more than just victims of circumstance.