Monday, December 04, 2006

Blue Dragon's Irish Heritage

Another huge week at Blue Dragon, and another occasion for me to apologise that I have not been blogging more!

Last week - November 29 to be exact - we had a visit by a member of Ireland's parliament, Mr Noel Dempsey, along with the new Irish Ambassador to Vietnam and a team of staffers involved in setting up the Embassy and organising Mr Dempsey's trip.

The occasion was the launch of Blue Dragon's Learning Center, a facility with a computer lab, reading room, and psychology counselling space for the street kids in our project.

I have to boast for a moment about the Blue Dragon staff... we set the computer lab up in just a week, which included painting the room; getting the computers, desks and chairs; installing everything; and then preparing the rest of the house, which used to be a residence, and so was pretty dirty. Another minor miracle performed by the most amazing staff team in Vietnam.

The Irish delegation were great - they really connected with the kids, which took me by surprise at first. I later found out that the Minister used to be a school teacher and counsellor, so I quickly offered him a job with us, should he get tired of politics. I'm still waiting for his call...

Of course, there are some strong links between Blue Dragon and Ireland. One of our volunteers is the daughter of the man who founded Finnegan's Bar here in Hanoi. And somebody once translated Joyce's "Portrait of the Artist as Young Man" into Vietnamese and then donated the proceeds from the launch to us. All of this is very impressive. But the real connection between us came through soccer games at the United Nations International School, where I often meet Sean Hoy, Head of Irish Aid, while his son and the Blue Dragon kids played.

All those early mornings at soccer have been worthwhile! The best thing about this new Learning Center is that it provides our kids with resources that are the very best available. There's no organisation or business in the country with a better computer lab than ours; even the teacher is one of the best in the country.

No wonder, then, that we've already had an attempted break-in... But thankfully, the Irish grant included funds for an alarm system.

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