Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Looking back

Farewell, 2007! Another exciting, crazy, busy year with so many highs and lows.

The year has finished with some ups and downs. Christmas Day was great. We had parties, and games, and even a visit from some special friends – the Australian and New Zealand Ambassadors and their families dropped by, as did a certain Mr Claus!

Just a couple of days later, though, the father of some of our kids died. This family has been through so many difficulties that they really didn’t need yet another blow. Two of the sons are drug addicts, and a third was in rehab in Saigon, so we had to bring him home for the funeral and rites. There are also 2 younger sons, only one of whom is going to school. Even before their father died of a heart attack on Thursday evening, they’ve all been living with their Grandmother, who is one of the most wonderful people I know.

One twist to this tale is that, since the death, the entire family has been hiding out at my house because of their fear of the father’s ghost…

This was the third funeral in the Blue Dragon family for 2007. Here’s hoping we have none in 2008.

Many events of the year were much happier, though. The year kicked off with new kids going back to school after years of working on the streets; and one boy, Hieu, even started school for the first time ever at age 14. Later in the year, we started running private lessons at our centre for 2 kids who have never learned to read and write: Ngoc, a 13 year old who we assisted to have a cleft lip operation; and Hung, who has TB and meningitis in the past couple of years, and who is now about 20 years old, and still recovering slowly.

Blue Dragon supported 3 kids to attend drug rehabilitation in Saigon, and many more runaway kids to be reunited with their families. One little guy went home to his family after 4 years of living on the streets.

Some of our older teen girls started working in great jobs at The Vine restaurant; a teenage orphan from Bac Ninh got a job as a trainee welder in metal fabrication company; two of our kids joined the KOTO program; and a whole lot more completed vocational training courses, completed ICDL computer certificate courses, and one has just completed college.

A big highlight early in the year was taking one of our boys, Quan, and his mother to Australia for facial surgery on a neurofibroma. Quan is continuing to recover, and he’s back in school now, having a good life.

We faced more medical emergencies than we’d like – a girl slipping into a coma in our drop in centre; an epileptic fit on the staircase; Ngoc’s stabbing (he went back to his own home on Monday! Yay!); a runaway boy bashed in the head with a brick; a street kid whose toe was cut off in revenge; as well as countless fevers and measles cases. One boy was so sick that the doctors believed he had TB!

Then in Hoi An our staff at the Children’s Home had to face the biggest flood since – well, since last time they had the biggest flood – and all 30 kids were trapped on the top floor of their building. The clean up was smelly and filthy, but many people pitched in with donations to replace all that was lost. Even our manager there, Nicole, lost most of her personal possessions.

Certainly not the most exciting event, but a big one for our staff and kids, was the move to a new centre in Hanoi. Until now, we’ve had to spread out across 4 buildings in one street: lunches and art in one building; parking and computer lessons in another building, and so on. But throughout July and August we renovated a new building that we have rented, and on September 2nd we moved in. Now the kids are much safer, and we’ve been able to offer more opportunities than before.

On the other side of the world, one of our volunteers, Iain Purdie, finished off his round the world backpacking trip by walking home that last 1000 miles! Iain inspired many people to support our work, and along the way saw Europe in a way few people ever do.

Some of our own kids had the chance to travel – not as far as Iain, but to Singapore and Thailand. If only we could do this for all our kids!

Back home, though, it was our most ‘grassroots’ work that I personally found most inspiring: street kids taking on community service roles; and chronically homeless street kids giving up the exciting world of stealing and dealing to live more stable and safe lives.

I’m not so sure how we fitted all this into only 12 months. No doubt the coming year will be equally as fulfilling.

Big thanks to all our supporters and friends out there in the land of Blog. And a happy new year to all.

1 comment:

Carole said...

I discovered your blog by chance, and I've been visiting it very regularly. I'm full of admiration for your work and dedication.
We have a little girl adopted from Vietnam at 7 weeks old. Having her is the most wonderful thing in our lives, and the 4 weeks spent in Hanoi are unforgettable — so much so that over 6 years on, I'm still avidly reading anything to do with children and Vietnam.
Yours is a very moving blog to follow. I'm so glad that people like you are around to help change things!
With our best wishes,
Carole, James and Hâu (known as Hâuie)