Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Search, rescue, celebrate

Recent weeks at Blue Dragon have been an unusual mix of urgency and enjoyment. I can confidently say that "boredom" hasn't been on our agenda!

With Lunar New Year, or Tet, is coming soon: February 10 is the first day of the Year of the Snake.

For the 1600 or so children in the Blue Dragon family, this is a time of celebration. Tet is the one real holiday of the year in Vietnam; it's like Christmas and New Year rolled into one and spread out over a week. And just like the end-of-year celebrations in western countries, it's an opportunity for reflection on the past and planning for the future.

So far we've already organised a fantastic Tet Awards party for all of the Blue Dragon kids in Hanoi, and over the last weekend we also ran 6 smaller parties for kids throughout Hue (in central Vietnam). These are children in rural areas who have been trafficked into garment factories, but found and returned home by Blue Dragon.

Children and volunteers dancing at a Tet party in Hue

Just by coincidence, on the same days that we organised these parties, our staff were also engaged in search and rescue trips looking for more trafficked children. While much of the east enjoys the build up to the Lunar New Year, kids in slavery have nothing to look forward to except even greater workloads and worse conditions. Children in garment factories have to work extra long days to keep up with the increased demand, and girls in brothels have all the additional horror of the parties that they are forced to serve.

So while it's important for us to be celebrate with our kids, it's also essential that our anti-trafficking work steps up and gets kids home.

On Friday January 18, Blue Dragon staff located 10 children from rural Hue who were working as forced, unpaid labourers in southern garment factories. The factory owners were massively displeased to see us, but we were working in conjunction with local government officials, so other than obstruct, lie, and argue, they couldn't really stop us.

And just yesterday, the staff located and rescued 2 Vietnamese girls who have been kidnapped and sold to a brothel in China. The team is not yet back across the border, so I can't say any more just yet, but after a few very tense hours they all now appear to be safe and well.

Side by side, these rescues and celebrations seem so different. But they're just 2 sides of the same coin. Our work is all about getting kids out of crisis, and onto a safe long-term path to a happy life.