Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Bazaar Days, Royal Nights

Hanoi’s International Women’s Club held its Christmas Bazaar on Sunday – always a huge affair, and one of the Big Days on the calendar for expats living here. It’s a day of mad shopping and meeting up with all the friends you haven’t seen for months, and 100% of the money goes to charities, like Blue Dragon. Christmas shopping without the commercialism!

Each year, Blue Dragon has a stall selling some of our wares – honey, jewelry made by the kids, greeting cards and shirts. This year, we went even further… We helped the Club out by managing the parking (1500 motorbikes!) and a troupe of the Dragon Drummers put on a terrific performance – the best they’ve done yet, I believe.

(So good, in fact, that the New Zealand Ambassador and his wife, James and Alison, shouted them all to NZ ice cream afterwards! Woo hoo!)

It was a big day for us, with almost every staff member volunteering at least half of their Sunday.

And on Tuesday night, a royal affair at the Melia Hotel… The celebration of the King of Thailand’s birthday. Long live the King!

The Thai Embassy has done something quite special. They have asked other embassies and international organisations to NOT send the usual bouquet of flowers; but instead, to make a contribution towards Blue Dragon.

We’ve committed to using this money for a nutrition program aimed specifically at the girls. At the time of writing, I don’t know how much money this has raised, but regardless of the final outcome, I am touched by the Ambassador’s generosity. I had only met him and his wife once before this!

As Director of Blue Dragon, one of my duties is raising funds for our work with street kids. I call it a ‘duty’ because that’s what it is – if I don’t raise the money, the kids don’t go to school. It’s something I have to do.

But it isn’t something I enjoy. If anything, I see it as a distraction from my ‘real’ work, of overseeing Blue Dragon’s programs and getting to know the kids. So when somebody like the Thai Ambassador, or the Head of Irish Aid (see my last post!) calls me to offer support, I am always deeply grateful.

It’s also very moving to be contacted by people around the world who know me only through the blog, and want to lend a hand. Of course, it’s not me they want to help – it’s our kids – but I can’t help but feel like a lucky guy to receive such support.

A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from Catherine Hancock in Australia who, totally out of the blue, emailed to ask if she could donate the proceeds from her New Year’s Eve party to Blue Dragon. She’s calling the evening “A touch of Blue” and has invited all her friends.

In Singapore, the staff of Barclay’s Bank got together to send us a shipment of hygiene and toiletry products that we will use for the kids who visit our center every day. What they have sent amounts to a year’s supply for us!

And this week, we received a donation of shampoo, soap, OMO and toothpaste from the local staff of a Russian company here in Hanoi. Initially I was contacted by a woman named Phuong, who said that she had just received her first paycheck and wanted to make a contribution to charity. She then got her colleagues involved, and others at CBOSS joined in the collection. From Phuong and her friends, we have a year’s supply of toiletries for the kids at our residences. Thank you!

We are fortunate to have such good friends…

All of these events remind me, though, to never lose sight of what Blue Dragon is really here for: the kids. We spent the weekend and Monday working with another run away boy, To, who seems to have been in a fight with his school teacher, and fled in panic! His parents came to Hanoi and were delighted to see him again.

And we have been keeping in touch with Loc, who I wrote about earlier, and is back with his family in the countryside. A couple of photos of Loc’s home are below; you can see he kind of poverty he is living in. We’re looking for some ways to help the whole family out.

Finally… A salute to Our Man In Hanoi, aka Steve, an English volunteer who has been working in a Vocational Training restaurant the past couple of years. Steve is moving on – a difficult thing to do after being here so long – and I understand his next move is to work with another project for street kids in another country. Farewell, OMIH…

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hello there, I'm guessing you're Michael, the guy that all the kids in Blue Dragon love right? You might not remember me but I'm Van Anh and I volunteered at BD dor a few months last summer. I accidentally came across your blog while searching for the address of Blue Dragon and I was deeply moved :). I have seen for myself how the help of people from all over the world could significantly change the lives of street children in Vietnam. I'm so grateful to know that there are still many people out there who want to make a difference. I also admire you and other volunteers a lot too. It's really hard to find such devoted, kind-hearted and enthusiastic people like you guys nowadays :)