How a marathon walk is transforming hundreds of lives

September 29, 2020
Over $107,000 AUD has been raised through the 2020 Blue Dragon Marathon Walk organised by The Intrepid Foundation. These funds are transforming the lives of disadvantaged Vietnamese youth by providing career and training opportunities tailored to each individual.

 

The Intrepid Foundation and Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation set out to raise funds to provide training and job opportunities for 500 young people.

After six years of the annual walk taking place near Melbourne, on September 13, 2020 and thanks to the support of Intrepid Travel the walk was held globally for the first time. Walkers took on the challenge in 12 different countries and, with the generosity of sponsors from all over the world, raised more than double the initial target.

Delving into the world of careers for the first time

Blue Dragon works with teenagers and young adults who have survived homelessness, human trafficking and extreme poverty. The recovery process to heal from these traumatic experiences is unique to each individual. As a result, each young person’s needs and challenges in discovering their vocation and outlining a career path are different.

The career preparation and training activities Blue Dragon organises across Vietnam take all these factors into account and are designed not only to introduce young people to the world of careers, but also to guide teens and young adults in a journey to discover their strengths and passions.

In Hanoi, Blue Dragon runs career preparation courses where teens take part in discussions, games and research activities geared towards introducing youth to different jobs and helping them discover their passions.

Throughout the course, the teenagers learn how to create their first resume and prepare for a job interview, visit vocational training centres, attend talks with employers from industries, and visit workplaces so they can see firsthand what working in each field is like.

Manh is one of the 22 teens who joined the most recent course. Through these activities, the teenager has found the confidence and motivation he’d lost after running away from home. “I don’t want to waste my time anymore, and I believe now I am doing the right thing to achieve a better future,” he said.

Bringing career opportunities to remote areas

Blue Dragon also works in rural areas of Vietnam where poverty is widespread and training and employment opportunities are rare. As a result, in these regions, the risk of falling prey to human trafficking and child labour is much higher than in cities.

Career orientation workshops are regularly organised in schools by Blue Dragon staff. These activities help teenagers learn about possible professional paths and the steps to take to pursue each career. They help bridge the gap between rural and urban areas and build the foundation to keep communities safe from trafficking and exploitation.

Since workplaces and vocational schools are less accessible from these parts of the country, Blue Dragon arranges trips for employers to visit isolated schools, so the youth in these regions can still learn firsthand about jobs in different fields.

In addition, small community youth groups are set up in the communes. The groups work as an open space where teenagers gather once a month to learn new skills, discuss and support each other with future goals and career options.

From January to August this year, a total of 877 teens and young adults benefited from these activities in Dien Bien province alone.

Nurturing passions 

Once the teens have chosen their career path, Blue Dragon offers access to vocational training. Barista, baking and cooking courses are among the most popular choices, which is why teens and young adults are also given the opportunity to join lessons and short courses in these fields at the Blue Dragon centre.

For many young people who are currently on the way to working in these jobs, these short training courses give their first taste of the profession.

In addition to covering the costs of the course, Blue Dragon ensures youth have everything they need to successfully complete their training. This may mean support with accommodation, meals, transportation, and uniforms.

Creating opportunities for ethnic communities 

Youth from ethnic minority communities – which comprise about 15% of Vietnam’s population – are least likely to know their options or have the resources to access them. For a young person from Dien Bien province, for instance, it wouldn’t be possible to attend vocational training in Hanoi without additional support with living and travelling expenses. Because of this, Blue Dragon puts special emphasis on bringing opportunities to ethnic minority teens and young adults.

One of those teenagers is Thu, who comes from the majestic mountains of Ha Giang province. When she graduated high school, Thu started working on the family farm but she dreamt of doing so much more. With job opportunities lacking in her area, she began entertaining the idea of leaving home to find work.

This is how many girls and young women in border areas become vulnerable to human trafficking, so the Blue Dragon social workers offered Thu help to find a job that was safe.

The teenager joined a vocational training course in the city, and shortly after she had a full-time job as a kitchen assistant in one of Hanoi’s 5-star hotels. “I found my dream, a path that I would like to follow. For me, this is life-changing.”

Improving livelihoods to prevent trafficking

But leaving the countryside for the city isn’t always possible and, in some cases, it’s simply not the best option. Blue Dragon supports young women from ethnic communities who have been rescued from trafficking and who yearn to return home and to their traditional way of life, or who have young children or other family members to care for.

In these cases, Blue Dragon helps the girls and women improve their livelihood without having to leave their home. One way to do this is what is known as ‘cow banks’, through which a family borrows a cow, a pig, a goat or chickens.

But these loans aren’t repaid with money. Instead, once the farm animals begin having offspring and the family’s income starts increasing, one of those calves, chickens or piglets is given to another family in need. This creates a cycle with the potential of lifting entire communities from poverty, which in turn makes them less vulnerable to trafficking.

Steps to a better future

The 2020 Blue Dragon Marathon Walk has created tremendous opportunities for Vietnamese youth to access career preparation programs, training, and support to start employment. Walkers from Victoria, Australia, are yet to do their walk because of pandemic restrictions, but are aiming to take part in November. More funds may yet be raised, which means even more assistance for young people in need of help.

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