Making a difference, one person at a time

Connor  Occleshaw, Wellington College student

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.In November 2017, the boys spoke about the visit at the Blue Dragon NZ fundraising movie night, which raised $3870. The visit made a huge impression on the group, as seen in the following speech made by Conor Occleshaw.

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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 everywhere, 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.

Michael Brosowsoski with a Blue Dragon child

Michael Brosowsoski with a Blue Dragon child

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.

Michael Brosowski with some Blue Dragon children

Michael Brosowski with some Blue Dragon children

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.

Trafficked young people rescued
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.

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Record sales at fundraising book fair

This year’s Blue Dragon Book Fair, held in Wellington, raised a record $10,400 – all of which goes to Blue Dragon Children’s Centre in Vietnam to support its work in rescuing young people who have been trafficked.

To date, Blue The "hot" books tableDragon has rescued more than 600 people who have been trafficked. Many of the young women are sold to brothels or into forced marriages in China. Other young people are taken to factories in big cities like Ho Chi Minh City, where they work 18-hour days every day of the week with little food and money.

The trustees are delighted with the money raised this year. The cold weather and occasional rain did not deter buyers, who were queuing outside at 8am on Saturday 23 May ready for the doors to open at 9am.

The stream of people was steady throughout the day and the use of an Eftpos machine for the first time made transactions very easy.

Wellington Coillege baristasStudents from Wellington College with barista training kept up a steady supply of coffee and book buyers were very happy to hand over another dollar for a piece of one of the slices, baked by some of the trustees.

“It was a hugely successful book fair,” said trustee Sue Gifford. “It was great to have Sarah from the Blue Dragon Taupo group with us, plus the many helpers who turned up on Friday night to sort and then on Saturday to lend a hand.

“We had fantastic books this year. The day was cold and wet in the morning, which seemed to drive people inside to the good books, good company and good coffee – and yummy pieces of slice, which we easily sold at the door as the happy hunters departed.”

Last week, the trustees sent $NZ13,700 to Blue Dragon’s Hanoi bank account. This was made up of $10,400 from the book fair, which included some generous donations given on the day. There was also an amount of $982 from a supporter’s fundraising effort and the remainder came from people who make regular contributions.

The next event from the New Zealand branch of Blue Dragon will be a movie fundraiser later in the year.

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