Blue Dragon’s founder, Michael Brosowski, has been honoured by the University of New South Wales, his alma mater. The vice chancellor of UNSW, Professor Attila Brungs, awarded Michael, whose work has helped thousands of disadvantaged Vietnamese children and youth, with the Alumni Award for Social Impact and Service this Monday.
The award recognises the university’s former students who have “dedicated their time to advocate on social issues and generate positive social change… [and have] made a significant positive impact on the social challenges facing communities.” Every day for the past twenty years and with Michael leading the charge, Blue Dragon has worked in communities making a tangible difference to the lives of thousands of underprivileged children across Vietnam.
Education, education, education
The plaudit from Michael’s former university epitomises what is at the heart of Blue Dragon: education.
To have the best chance at fulfilling their potential, children need access to the right education and skills, like Michael did. Education is key to the improvements Blue Dragon makes to communities across Vietnam.
Every child Blue Dragon encourages to stay in school is one less child at risk of trafficking. Every young adult given the training they need to follow their dreams makes them less vulnerable to being forced into exploitation.
Michael credits his education for giving him the tools he needed to provide support to thousands of disadvantaged children in Vietnam.
He didn’t know it at the time, but the wide-ranging arts and education degree Michael studied would become the foundation from which Blue Dragon approaches the assistance provided to vulnerable children.
“One of the things I’m proudest of,” Michael reflects, “is how I’ve created a very holistic organisation… capable of looking for solutions to children’s problems beyond their immediate need.”
Giving a child an education is not always as simple as (re-)registering them with their local school. Children who have lived through desperate situations or survived appalling acts of human cruelty need support in healing from their terrifying experiences.
When Blue Dragon works with a child, the first step is to understand their unique needs. There is not a set approach to the support offered. “We meet people in all kinds of trauma and distress. And we don’t just look at it from a single point of view of how to help this child,” says Michael. “We really look holistically at everything: what do we need to do in this child’s village; how can we help their family; how can we get them back into school, education, training; and what are their psychological needs.”
The education Michael received was crucial for adopting this broad approach. “I can see the link between what and how I learned at UNSW and the way that I’m working in Vietnam,” he says.
One Person can Make a Difference
In accepting the award, Michael spoke of how one person can make a difference simply by caring.
Twenty years ago, Michael met a 15-year-old shoe-shine boy living and working on the streets of Hanoi. Michael showed the boy the compassion he deserved but was sorely missing. As one person, he set about making a positive difference to the child’s life.
Since that day, Michael has worked with many collaborators. Relentlessly, they have reunited street kids with their families, kept young people in school and rescued children from appalling examples of human trafficking.
From that first encounter with a street child in 2002, Blue Dragon has gone on to rescue over 1,300 people from trafficking; help 6,000 children return to school or training; and reunite 752 city-bound homeless children with their families in the countryside. Thousands more at-risk children have been able to avoid homelessness and exploitation thanks to Blue Dragon and its supporters.
Two decades ago, Michael was one person who cared about a street child in Hanoi. From there, the care that Michael showed that young boy has multiplied into what Blue Dragon is today: an organisation with an international community of thousands caring for children in dire circumstances across Vietnam.
Michael’s education enabled him to found an organisation that gives those living in poverty the tools to leave it behind forever. Blue Dragon will continue to utilise that knowledge until every child has access to the education and tools they need to make their own mark on the world.
In Michael’s words: “Our world has many problems, but there is always hope that we can make a change.
“As long as you can help somebody, you’re not helpless. Knowing that means we can keep going.
“If we all do our part, we can heal this world.”
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