One of my favourite moments each day is spotting new kids at the Blue Dragon centre, Dragon House.
Whether they’re sitting in the drop-in centre, or having lunch upstairs, they’re easy to spot.
All the other kids – who have been with us for weeks, or months, or years – will be confidently doing their own thing. They’ll be dancing along to some pop song, or chilling out with friends, or sharing stories about their latest adventures.
The new kids will be sitting back, overawed by the noise and the frenzy. They look stunned: because to arrive at Dragon House today means that yesterday they were in some kind of crisis, and now all of a sudden they are surrounded by love and joy. And noise. It can be overwhelming, even for the staff!
I say that seeing this ‘newness’ is always my favourite moment of the day. Here’s why:
I know it won’t last.
Give it a few hours, or perhaps a few days, and that new boy or girl will be right in there with everyone else. For some, it may take weeks, and in a few cases I have even seen the transformation take years.
But it always, always happens.
The whole idea underlying Blue Dragon is that change is possible. We meet young people in absolute despair – but they don’t have to stay that way.
Visitors to Dragon House sometimes express surprise that the kids seem so happy, so confident, so… normal.
Don’t get me wrong. There’s a lot of pain and trauma in these kids. That can take many years to heal, and for some it doesn’t go away. The damage that is done to children who are sleeping rough on the streets, or trafficked into foreign countries to be sold into the sex trade, doesn’t just fade away.
But we have seen thousands of times now the change that’s possible in a child’s life when someone cares for them.
The start of a new year is as good a time as any for some reflection. And it’s a great time to think about what change is to come.
Through 2018, Blue Dragon saw some extraordinary change here in Vietnam.
From a new law on child protection, to seeing two people arrested and sentenced under that law; to rescuing 77 trafficked people from slavery and assisting another 70; to helping 118 homeless children escape the streets and find their way to safety; this has been a big year.
So what does 2019 hold?
There will certainly be more rescues, more assistance to street children, and more of the psychological and practical interventions which are critical to getting the kids back on their feet.
But there will be some more exciting changes, too, with an expansion of Blue Dragon’s work into new regions of the country where human trafficking is endemic, and a deepening of our therapeutic care for trauma survivors. Some of this we are yet to announce – and we’re bursting at the seams to do so.
Change is possible. We’ve seen incredible transformation in 2018, and we know there’s so much more to come in 2019.
Stay with us for this journey – because life is a long, long story.