Friday, May 20, 2011

The struggle

The last week has been pretty exciting.

Emails from around the world have been pouring in with heartfelt expressions of thanks and support. My whole team has been humbled by these; I only hope people realise how much these mean to us.

I'm on the road, and have been catching up with supporters in Western Australia, including Shenton College, some Rotary Clubs, and a couple of radio interviews.

Being 'on the road' is important to our work. Blue Dragon has no office or staff outside of Vietnam, so for us to raise the funds that we need to do our work, I need to get out and meet up with our supporters at least ince a year.

But as I travel about, each day reminds me that my heart really is back in Vietnam with the kids.

Of course, I like to write about the success stories on my blog - the stories of kids who make it, who change, who get out of terrible situations and thrive. These are the stories that get me going in the morning.

But very often, it's the stories of the kids who are really struggling to get by that occupy most of my time and attention. Being far from Vietnam, I rely entirely on my staff to keep me informed, and there's no greater joy than getting their emails with updates.

We've had 2 kids leave our Shelter this week, which is awfully hard on us. Both are kids who have lived for long periods on the streets, but have been with us now for 18 months and 4 years respectively. They've mostly been doing pretty well, but in the last weeks they just couldn't hold it together, and left for the streets.

Within days, they came back to ask for forgiveness.

Our hearts are bursting to say yes, to take them back, but we need the kids to know that their relationship with us really matters; that they can't just come and go. (For both of them, this is not the first time this has happened). And so, with the summer holidays beginning, we've told each of the boys to return to their villages where they have only distant relatives, and come back to us in a month.

This will be a tough month for them, but we want to see them do it. We want to see them struggle for a better life; take control of themselves and make a change.

We only hope that this strategy will work. And so, while I am in Australia, the 2 boys are in their villages. I guess each of us has to struggle with being away from where we want to be, and believe that our time away will be worthwhile.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Spotlight

This week has certainly ended on a high note, with Blue Dragon's work being featured on CNN:

We haven't received a great deal of media attention until now, so it's quite exciting for our team to watch how people respond. So far we've been stunned by the outpouring of support from people around the world, and in particular people of Vietnamese origin living in other countries. (Thank you!)

I was in Ho Chi Minh City when the story broke, and a few hours later I caught up with a boy named Vu who I met living on the streets over a year ago but who now lives in a shelter and goes to school. He had no idea of why I needed to answer 50 emails - he clearly hasn't been watching CNN! - and really just wanted to go out for a sinh to (fruit shake). So the emails had to wait a while.

Although much of the focus of the story is on my own role in establishing and running Blue Dragon, the spotlight really needs to be shared with those people who have worked alongside me over these years: the volunteers, the staff, the donors, and all those who have made a contribution along the way.

And then, of course, there's the kids, who give meaning to what we do. Kids like Vu. Without them we're nothing.

Monday, May 09, 2011

So far...

Here's what Blue Dragon has done since we started in 2003:

To date, Blue Dragon has:
Sent 1,928 kids back to school and training
Provided accommodation to 109 girls and boys
Served 213,425 meals
Built or repaired 42 homes for families
Distributed 17,923 litres of milk
Handed out 23,454 kilos of rice
Reunited 84 runaway children with their families
Taken 733 kids to a doctor or hospital
Put 5 teens through drug rehab
Obtained legal registration papers for 557 children
Rescued 101 trafficked children
Placed 62 teens in jobs
Played 918 games of soccer

... I think we need to start planning our celebrations for the 1000th game of soccer!