People sometimes ask me what a typical day is like at Blue Dragon. I have to answer very honestly that there’s no such thing as a typical day. And this week has been illustrative of that.
Early in the week we represented survivors of trafficking in court for a case that’s over 23 years old. Two women trafficked more than 20 years ago finally saw their trafficker jailed. This is the first “cold case” we’ve been involved in.
We brought back a woman from China, handed across the border by Chinese police, who was quite ill and needed immediate medical care. It wasn’t coronavirus and she’s fine now, but there were certainly some tense moments.
Mid-week, while focusing on cases of sexual abuse of street children, an urgent call came through from a boarding school way up in the mountains that had noticed two of their girls missing. Blue Dragon coordinated between the school and the police, eventually locating the girls in a mini-van headed to the border with China.
The traffickers knew they’d been detected so slipped off the bus before the police could get to them. The girls are now safely with us and police are investigating.
And then a call came to help a 21 year old university student from Ho Chi Minh City. She’d lost her part-time job because of the coronavirus some months back, so thought she’d finally got lucky when she was offered a waitressing position in a café. The café turned out to be a brothel, and for 3 days she had to fight to protect herself before finally being able to call for help. She, too, is safe now.
As these urgent calls for help came through, the street outreach team continued meeting record numbers of homeless children in Hanoi; our staff out in the provinces continued investigating cases of children failing to return to school to see where they are and what they need; and a street kid disclosed that there’s an organized ring pimping out boys at a lake.
Behind the scenes we had challenging times as well, when some of our supporters around the world tried to donate online and kept getting error messages. Our PayPal system had a bug that we just couldn’t resolve, and because of coronavirus their customer service at the moment is limited. We eventually found the problem and fixed it, but not before quite a few people had the frustrating experience of wanting to help and not being able to. (Massive thanks to those who have persisted! I am hugely grateful!) This is NOT the position that any charity wants to be in during a global crisis.
So, a week of constant surprise and struggle.
There has been plenty of good news through the week too, of course.
Every one of the 100 Blue Dragon scholars at university and college is back in class. These are all young adults who grew up in Blue Dragon programs and are now pursuing a tertiary education.
We had some wonderful reunions of women who were rescued from trafficking but have been in quarantine for 2 weeks, including a young woman whose son has waited months for the day his mother would walk back through the front door.
For Blue Dragon, we’re familiar with turbulence. Our whole organization is set up to respond to crisis. And it looks like the coming weeks and months will continue to demand a lot from us.
While the coronavirus pandemic is largely over in Vietnam, we are seeing its impact in the desperate situations that so many young people are in.
Until the whole world recovers, no one country can return to normal. This really is a case of us all being in the same storm, even if we are riding it out in different vessels.
The challenges ahead are complex, but I’m confident that Blue Dragon can rise to meet them. After all, this is what we are here for. And we are not alone: we have friends around the globe who are cheering us on and donating to make sure the kids have what they need.
Our work now is like riding in two gears simultaneously. We are still dealing with emergency needs arising from the pandemic, while also starting the process of rebuilding lives and communities as they begin their recovery.
There are tough times ahead for the kids. We stand ready to respond.
Right now, Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation is holding an Emergency Appeal. We are asking for donations to deliver immediate aid and to protect children and families from exploitation. If you can, please consider donating to this important cause.