Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation is an international NGO working with kids in crisis in Vietnam. It serves over 1,500 children and youth throughout the country. In Hanoi, the ‘Step Ahead’ programme offers social work and comprehensive services to street youth and young people with disabilities. They operate two anti-trafficking programmes in rural Vietnam dealing with the issue of domestic slavery, and one programme rescuing young women trafficked to China. In Bac Ninh province they support school students who are vulnerable to dropping out of school due to poverty.
It was one year on since my last visit to Blue Dragon so I packed my bags and made a trip to Vietnam with my family. We wanted to see how the support that the CLSA Chairman’s Trust has provided is actually working on the ground. As usual, we were made to feel very welcome by all the kids and staff at the drop-in centre in Hanoi.
The project I have been working on with Blue Dragon is to provide support to their ‘Step Ahead’ programme. We have done this by helping them to set up a student loan/grant programme to support kids going into Tertiary education.
The reason this is necessary is that if kids are trafficked or abused they often end up in the larger cities in Vietnam which is not their place of registration. Putting their paperwork right can take some time and many miss the opportunity of funding for higher education.
This is where Blue Dragon comes in, and with our support, to set up a system of loans and grants to help the kids get this access to education. The loan element of the programme means that when current students repay this supports the current and future students.
In 2014/2015 the Chairman’s Trust helped to support 29 students and I met with a group of them for afternoon tea.
We talked about their studies, hopes and dreams for the future. It was great to hear how they are applying themselves in areas such as social work, engineering, graphic design etc. They also told me the difficulties that they continue to face. The programme is 70% female and when some are re-connected with their families, they are put under pressure to give up education and get married.
Many also relayed to me the fact that teachers often seek additional payments over and above the tuition fees which is very difficult to find when you are studying and supporting yourself with a part time job.
Such social pressures and petty corruption seem a part of life that these kids need to overcome to achieve their aspirations of a better life. I was amazed to hear about their schedules and how many parts of their lives that they juggle in order to achieve their aims.
It made me feel very proud that with our help they are managing to do this. I am looking forward to my next visit to see further positive results.