Sometimes I find it hard to explain what Blue Dragon does.
We started out, back in 2003, as a group of friends in Hanoi running English classes for street kids. Soon after we took the classes to a football field, where our long-running soccer team began. (Just last summer we played our 2000th game).
Then we opened a shelter; then a drop-in centre. Then we found ourselves in a position to help a child who had been trafficked and sold, and so we started what would be the first of hundreds of rescues – so far.
We’re not an orphanage, although we certainly care for orphans; and we’re not a school, even though we have teachers and classrooms and have put thousands of kids through schooling and university.
And while we started out helping street kids who were shining shoes to earn money, as the situation in Hanoi changed we later found ourselves working with street gangs, and then with underage boys who were caught up in sex trafficking.
From a marketing perspective, Blue Dragon can be hard to get a handle on. But we’ve never been in it for the marketing; from the start we’ve been here to take on the challenges that have needed us.
As you can imagine, this leads us down some pretty interesting paths. This week, one of those new paths opened up to us.
Back in January, the police in Hanoi arrested a man for sexually abusing children; he’s a man long known to us, and his prosecution, if successful, will mean that the streets of the city are much safer for homeless kids. A twist in the case was that in 2015 this man was attacked by 2 teenage boys who claim that they were his victims; they beat him almost to death in a fit of rage after he allegedly sexually assaulted them, and for their crime they have each been sentenced to 10 years imprisonment.
The boys lodged an appeal against their sentence but in reality held little hope. The arrest of their victim, however, changes that. Their sentence will stand, but now there are clearly some extenuating circumstances which give renewed hope for a reduction in their punishment.
Blue Dragon’s Chief Lawyer traveled out to the prison to meet them during the week. You can imagine the surprise the boys must feel: the man who they say abused them is now in custody and out of the blue they have a lawyer to represent them in court for free. For the first time in a long time, they have some reason to hope.
Vietnamese law currently doesn’t allow prisoners to have contact with relatives while they have an appeal outstanding, so these 2 boys haven’t seen their families in a very long time. When our lawyer met them on Thursday, they handed him a gift that they had made for their mothers: delicately knitted flowers, which have clearly taken dozens of hours to create. They can’t send a written message, so instead they wanted to send a sign of their love.
The boys deeply regret what they did and wish they could change the way their lives have turned out. That’s something Blue Dragon can’t help with, but we can help them here and now. We can make sure their appeal has a decent chance in court, and we can get those knitted flowers to their devastated mothers.
So this is what Blue Dragon does: we do whatever it takes. For these 2 kids, that means a reason to hope.
Even though it won’t take away the damage that has been done to their lives, this is a hope that was unimaginable just a few days ago.
Read more of Michael’s blog here.