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Study Abroad

Under the bridge and in the slum

January 03, 2015

Hanoi City

Today, our second full day in Vietnam, was our first day of "work" at Blue Dragon Children's Foundation. Many of us had brought much needed supplies such as toothbrushes, candy, socks, and towels. We met Kim,  School Liaison Officer, for orientation. There we saw the activity room, gym, and safe areas for rescued children. A special treat was a visit to the rooftop where we could see all around Hanoi.

Students in Vietnam

The Blue Dragon focuses on rescuing children from unsafe situations and on education. The unsafe situations include slavery, sweatshops, and sex trafficking. They have rescued children as young as eleven years old. They are also working to change Vietnamese laws to help protect children. Ten years ago child labor wasn't illegal. Now it is. The first thing they do is try to get children back to their families. If that isn't possible, they get them into educational programs.  Kim talked about the complicated process of locating children and getting them out of the situations. There can be danger involved and detective work.

In the afternoon we were taken in small groups to visit the places where street children live. Hoan Kiem lake, a beautiful park, is also a place where children can hide. Then we visited the Long Bien bridge area where many people live in extreme poverty. One group walked on the bridge and we shown area under the bridge supports high above the Red River where children sleep, hiding from authorities. The spaces are narrow and scary. The other group walked through the slum area, dodging piles of trash and other debris, to visit the living areas that are not much more than large boxes on styrofoam because the whole area floods in the spring.
Bridge in Vietnam
Vietnam slumBoth groups were deeply affected (read horrified) by the extreme conditions we found. One student said that it really put things in perspective. We were also so impressed by the dedication of the Blue Dragon people. Besides Kim, we were assisted by three young women, university students, who were former Blue Dragon children. One of our guides was also a former Blue Dragon child. His job now is to go out at night and try to find children who need help.

We are looking ahead now to working on projects which are still in formulation.