Tuesday, October 22, 2013

It's all about people

Before moving to Vietnam in 2002, I was a school teacher for 4 years and also worked in an Australian charity for 6 months. Blue Dragon Children's Foundation has now been running for about 10 years. So all up, I have a fair bit of time working in service roles. 

The more experience I gain, the more I understand that systems don't help people. People help people.

We're always looking for ways to boost productivity, enhance performance, and duplicate models. But in the end, our world is full of people, and if you want to impact their lives then it all comes down to YOU. It's not about what kind of a system you set up, or what kind of model you develop.It's about you.

Charities succeed or fail depending on their people. I imagine businesses would say exactly the same. You can have all the slick marketing that money can buy, but if your salespeople or customer service staff are rude or incompetent, then chances are you're going to fail.

In creating Blue Dragon, all I ever wanted to do was help a few kids who were having a rough time and had nobody else to care for them. That was the whole vision in the beginning, and it's not very different now. Even with over 1500 girls and boys in the Blue Dragon family, it's still all about caring and lending a hand.

Today my team in Hanoi had a beautiful insight to how we have impacted on the life of one of our boys - who I'll call "Hao".

One of Blue Dragon's Outreach workers met young Hao, now aged 14, on the streets of the city early this year.  He's now in school and living in the Blue Dragon Shelter.

Unbeknownst to us, Hao's school teacher this week asked him to write a story about someone who has helped him, or someone he has helped. Below is a translation of what he wrote. I'm very proud of him for writing this, and pleased that he had the confidence to share his story.

When I was 12 years old, my father died in an accident. After that my mother was very sick. I quit school and came to Hanoi to work so that I could earn money to send home so that my mum will have medicine. 
Before leaving for Hanoi, I fell into my mother's arms and cried.
When I first came to Hanoi, the city was completely new to me. There were too many people. I walked the streets and eventually found a job in a pho shop. I earned just a little money there. But I needed more money for my mother's medicine, so I also worked in many different jobs. In the morning, I sold posters and I worked at the pho shop in the afternoon. At night, I worked in a snail restaurant. 
I didn't dare to rent a room to sleep but I lived on a small ledge under a bridge. When it rained, and was cold, and the wind was strong, I thought a lot about my mother. But my hardships gave me more motivation to continue to try my best. 
Eventually I couldn't continue to work for the pho shop any more because the owner treated me so badly. I left the shop in the dark of night and found work in a car and motorbike washing business for 3 months. But because I was too small I had to stop working there. 
On the night I left the car washing job, I was stopped on the street by 2 older boys. They attacked and robbed me. I was very sad, thinking that I am too poor to be robbed, and yet still there is someone to rob me. I accepted that as my fate, but I missed my mother, my grand parents and my little brother. 
I was lucky to meet some brothers and sisters from Blue Dragon. Blue helps me to have a good home and good food. Every month I save some money from my allowance to bring to my mother at the end of the year. That makes me feel very happy. My mum is very happy as well. 
Now I am getting older, I feel that the difficulties I have been through have made me grow and become more mature. I have helped my mother a lot. And I am very happy.

After 10 years of working with Hanoi's street kids, Hao's story tells me that Blue Dragon is still doing something right. And as long as there's another girl or boy out there who needs some help, we're here to stay.