Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation
Walking the streets of Hanoi, it’s unusual to see beggars, street kids or homeless youth. “Where are the street kids?” is a common question visitors ask Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation staff. Unfortunately, not seeing kids does not mean they don’t exist. Street kids are generally hiding away in the day time, usually sleeping in constructions sites, under bridges or anywhere that provides a safe hiding space. At night time, when they are at their most vulnerable, they might have a terrible job paying next to nothing in a tea shop or spend their time scrounging for leftover food at the markets.
Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation staff are out on the streets every day, usually till the early hours of the morning, meeting children who are in crisis. They offer a meal, some clothes, emergency care and shelter if needed. But more than this, kids need a listening and understanding ear and a way out of the trap they find themselves in.
The kids Blue Dragon meets are from the countryside. Sometimes they’ve run away for simple reasons; one boy recently did not pass his high-school entrance exam. He was so ashamed, he ran away from home, but with no money in his pocket, he ended up tired, hungry and scared a few days later. Our staff found him riding around the streets on his bike after midnight, not knowing what to do or where to turn. The terrible part of this story is that he was found in an area where pedophiles operate. In his desperation for money to survive, he could so easily have fallen into real danger. A lucky escape.
Poverty is the trigger, but these days there are many more complications. Blue Dragon regularly meets kids who are running away from family violence, sexual abuse, drug use in the family or from situations where they have been deceived and trafficked. When they arrive on the streets, the people who prey on vulnerable kids are waiting. The sad truth is that the majority of boys Blue Dragon meets on the streets are approached by pedophiles. They pay small amounts of money to desperate and vulnerable kids and in doing so, they destroy lives.
That’s why it is so important to meet kids very soon after they arrive, and to take the time to build up trust. Six of the staff meeting kids are former street kids and they know just what it is like to be out on the streets, vulnerable and alone.
The kids Blue Dragon meets have no help from any other source but plenty of problems to deal with: hunger, sickness, lack of education, and nowhere to just be kids and play. Blue Dragon has an amazing social work program and a drop-in centre, supported by social workers, psychologists, lawyers and teachers.
Kids develop their own Individual Assistance Plans that map out their hopes and dreams for the future. They could need better nutrition, legal papers, a safe place to stay, a way back to school or counselling for their recovery and growth. Blue Dragon finds the best way forward, whether that is reuniting them with their families or giving them the opportunity to get the education they deserve.