The penny did not really drop until the second day… All that stuff about street kids in Vietnam seemed a bit abstract until we visited Blue Dragon’s headquarters to meet the staff, volunteers and most importantly – some of the kids themselves.
The idea of riding the Ho Chi Minh Trail on a classic Russian Ural motorcycle was front and center in my mind when I signed up for the trip with Rally Indochina. Sure I had read the bit about the street kids and Blue Dragon’s work helping them to reunite with their families.
But, if I am honest, I have to admit that all that stuff seemed like a bit of a bonus coming out of a great adventure – compassion fatigue is a terrible thing really and I am squirming slightly as I write this…
But the briefing by Claire Sauvage-Mar of Blue Dragon was the dose of reality I needed and it turned me in to a keen supporter of the foundation and what it does in Vietnam!
Claire explained how kids as young as 8 years old are lured away from their families with the promise of education and training – so they go with the blessing of their parents, who think their children will get a head start in life and find a way out of the grinding poverty of the countryside.
But the reality is that the only education they get is how to sew and stitch for 12-14 hours a day in cramped rooms that are locked from the outside. Many spend up to 10 years in these sweatshops and develop horrendous deformities that ultimately mean they are no longer able to perform their assigned tasks – at which point they are simply expelled from the sweatshop and end up on the street.
Unable, or too ashamed, to go home they are condemned to live on the streets and eke out a living however they can. Blue Dragon’s mission is to get these kids off the street, unite them again with their parents and get them on a path that will give a much better life.