Monday, December 18, 2006

In the Que

Since returning from Saigon, I have spent most of my time either in the countryside, or working with people who have come from the countryside to visit Blue Dragon.

Here in Vietnam, the local word for 'countryside' is 'que' - pronounced something like "where" with a "k" on the front. The word is also often used as an insult... When somebody has an accident, or does something silly, they might be put down as a "Nha Que", meaning their home is in the countryside.

But for a foreigner living in Hanoi, getting out into the que is a highlight of the week. Even, it seems, for Vietnamese people: a chance to escape the constant noise and rush of the city is a blessing!

A team of staff, volunteers, and street kids travelled together to Bac Ninh, about 30kms from Hanoi, to help paint a house. The family is very poor, and we support their children to attend school through the Stay In School sponsorship program. The kids and adults alike painted the entire house in just one day - quite a feat, I think!

A few days later, I travelled to Hung Yen to meet a boy named To. In recent weeks, To had run away from home and found himself on the doorstep of Blue Dragon Children's Foundation. He's a great kid, and his family loves him very much - in fact, it occured to me that if only ALL of our kids had such loving families, our jobs would be over! The family had organised a small feast, and we celebrated together over lunch. A very happy visit.

And then on Friday of last week, I travelled to Thanh Hoa province with our lawyer, Van, to visit some of the families we support in that province. It was a 4 hour drive each way, but only 130 kms or so.

We met with several kids, but in particular the family of Nghia, who I wrote about in my last blog. He's at home now with his folks, and much happier. He's thinking about doing some vocational training, but not sure just what yet. Before now, he's never really had the luxury of choice!

Over Christmas and new year, we expect to meet up with more of our 'old' kids - the girls and boys who have been and gone, but stay in touch and often still recieve our help, if they need it.

Some of the kids have also been making a journey of another kind to mark the passing of the year. Here at Blue Dragon, many kids have relatives in prison, and it's quite common that the prisons are far from the city. Getting there and getting in is something of an ordeal.

On Sunday, one of our Social Workers, Phuong, started to take the kids, one at a time, to visit their mums and dads in prison. It's such a sad thing to do, such a miserable task, and yet the kids are so happy to have this chance. Most of them keep the fact of their parents' imprisonment a secret: the children will often say that their mother is dead rather than admit to the truth. It's so painful for them, but seeing their parents or relatives for just one hour brings great joy. A difficult journey, with an invaluable result.

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