Ngan has been with Blue Dragon since she was in primary school.
Through our sponsorship program, she received help with her study fees and school gear right through to the end of high school. Being an intelligent and ambitious young woman, Ngan then wanted to enroll in an engineering degree, so a scholarship through Blue Dragon’s Tertiary Students program meant she could keep on studying.
Ngan wasn’t due to finish her studies until mid 2017, but she’s done so well that she was able to accelerate through some classes and complete her degree early. And not only that: she’s been recruited by Samsung’s graduate program and has already started full time employment.
Trong’s story is similar to Ngan’s. He started with Blue Dragon as a street kid, living on an island in the middle of the Red River while working to earn money for his family back home in the countryside.
When we met him, we offered him a chance to move into one of our Shelters and return to school. At first the transition back to formal education was very difficult, but soon Trong was doing well and he, too, made it through to the end of Grade 12.
Just last week, Trong started the next step in his education: a scholarship at Langports College in Australia. For the next 12 months, he’ll be learning English, living in home stays, and taking every chance he has to further his interest in dance and creative arts. And when he gets back to Vietnam in 2018, he’ll have a whole new set of choices for his future; there’s really no limit to what he can do next.
In some ways, Ngan and Trong are exceptional young people at Blue Dragon. At any one time, we have about 1,500 kids in our care (as well as a steady flow-through of children we meet and can reunite with their families soon after). Many of the kids we have known over the years have not chosen to follow academic careers; plenty have dropped out of school early, and there are also those who have ended up in gangs or in prison. There certainly isn’t a sweet ending for everyone we help.
However, Ngan and Trong typify the way we work with the kids. Their success is very much their own; this is what they have earned. Sure, we have lent a hand along the way; and that ‘hand’ has sometimes been quite substantial. For some kids, we have rescued them out of brothels or sweatshops; for others, we have provided years of shelter and educational assistance.
But in the end, it’s up to each person to decide how they will use that. One of our teens, many years ago, chose to work for the local government as a garbage collector. That’s a world away from Ngan studying engineering or Trong living in Australia for a year, yet it’s just as good an outcome because it was what the young man wanted for his life.
Some kids make poor choices, and many find it difficult to escape the path they set out on early in life. The biggest challenge for us at Blue Dragon is to learn what we can do for each of the children so that they can find their own path, make good choices, and have a life that they are happy with.
If we can do that, then I would judge our work with Vietnam’s children a success.
Read more of Michael’s blog here.