Conor Occleshaw, year 13, and David Ash, year 12, are students at Wellington College. They visited the Blue Dragon Children’s Centre in Hanoi as part of their school history trip to Vietnam in the July holidays. Visiting the centre and meeting Michael Brosowski was a highlight of the trip.
The boys spoke about the visit at the Blue Dragon NZ fundraising movie night in November 2017. The visit made a huge impression on the group, as seen in the following speech by Conor.
Here in New Zealand, we take many things for granted. Wifi, homes, clean water, food, clean clothes and education, to name a few things. It is only when you’re taken away from that when you realise how good we have it, and just how lucky and privileged we are. I noticed this when I was on the Vietnam History Trip earlier this year.
Firstly, aside from the intense heat and the constant swarms of people everwhere, I noticed how little the people have over there in terms of material possessions. With this being said, I have never met such polite, happy people, as everyone was incredibly friendly and welcoming.
It was only when we visited the Blue Dragon Centre when we really learned about some of the bigger problems in Vietnam. Many of these issues were regarding children, including forced marriage, in which 11% of girls in Vietnam are married before they’re 18; forced prostitution and high rates of child labour going on around the country, using children as young as 5 years old. Roughly 1.75 million children around Vietnam are labourers, earning very little pay, if any at all.
It is not only doom and gloom, however, as we found out through our visit to the Blue Dragon Centre in Hanoi. As founder Michael Brosowski explained to us, Blue Dragon is a place where children can feel safe if they are running from a crisis, be it family-based or on a larger scale, such as escaping from trafficking.
Blue Dragon aims to help children in need gain employment (and the appropriate training to succeed), education and tuition, and offers shelter and support for children who need it, be it short-term or long-term.
Established in 2004, Blue Dragon has reached many important milestones in terms of putting a stop to child labour, forced marriage and forced prostitution – all major issues in Southeast Asia. Since its beginning, over 500 children and teenagers have been rescued by Blue Dragon from forced labour institutions such as factories, and forced marriages and brothels.
In fact, recently we received an email from Blue Dragon, which provided us a greater insight into the processes of their work. It describes their recent rescue of ‘Hai’, a 20 year old woman who was lured with some friends from Vietnam to China under the false pretension that she was moving from her current job to a higher-paying job. On arrival, they were put into different houses and were put into forced marriages in rural China.
After a year, Hai’s “husband” allowed her to use a cellphone, which she immediately used to call home for help. Blue Dragon were contacted about Hai’s case on 7 August this year. After five days, they had located her in China, and set about making a rescue plan. On 16 August, nine days later, they brought Hai home to Vietnam, safe and sound. They are now providing her with psychological support and any vocational training she may need.
In summary, in countries like Vietnam, with a population of 92.7 million people, it is all too easy for marginalised groups to be forgotten, and for their problems to be swept under the rug. Blue Dragon is providing a safe place for young people who can go on and make a difference in the world, one young person at a time.