This may end up being a fairly emotional post, but hopefully will help drive home something that means a lot to me.
As most of you know, I recently had a career change and moved into teaching. There were a few reasons for this. Partly due to the recession, partly that as I was a Scottish resident I could do the course for free. A huge part was getting the chance to teach several Vietnamese kids how to use computers when I was here (I’m back overseas!) in 2006.
The other thing is that I really love kids. Not in a Gary Glitter way, not in the slightest. I just think they’re the best thing in the world. I don’t have any of my own yet and that’s my hugest regret in life so far. I’ve enjoyed so many pleasures, seen so many things, soaked up some amazing experiences – and yet the one thing I want more than anything else I haven’t quite got round to yet.
So I guess part of the reason I want to work with children is that I don’t have my own. Yet.
However, I’ve been talking to a lot of teachers from all over and I’ve had mixed reports about men working with kids. In the UK, Canada and Oz there’s a huge demand for male primary school teachers (which is a qualification I’m eying up – I teach secondary at the moment).
The US, however, is very anti male primary teachers. I was talking to an American secondary teacher and he told me that it’s very hard for a man to get a job in the primary sector. Why? Because any man who wants to be around small children in a paedophile, obviously.
This viewpoint sickens me.
I also suffer it. If I’m in a supermarket and I see a small child sat on the back of a trolley, I always want to wave and make silly faces until they smile. If the parents see me doing this and I’m stood there with another woman – girlfriend, friend, whatever – they’re generally nice about it. If I’m by myself then I get a nasty stare and the child is whisked off as if my only thought it to steal it and abuse it.
I reckon we can only blame the tabloids, but this attitude really makes me feel awful. When I was in Burma, a family walked me and another chap from the hostel home when we got lost. Along the way, the mother handed me her child to hold. The baby was maybe 3-4 months old and she was happy to just pass her to a stranger who found her gorgeous.
That wouldn’t happen back home.
The difference? No tabloid madness in Burma. No assumption that people are evil (except the Burmese government). Just a general feeling of good human nature.
Happily, there are other people who are as trustworthy as I am. In fact pretty much everyone is, let’s be honest. One of them is Michael Brosowski who founded the Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation in Hanoi which most of you know I do a bit of work for as and when I can.
Last weekend I had the chance to pop up to Long Bien and play a bit of football with the kids, who were then presented with a trophy for winning the under 14’s league. A great achievement from a rag-tag bunch, many of whom have spent time living on the streets.
The other thing is that even the smallest of them will happily “attach” themselves to a new member of the group and play around. I was in goal for one team of older kids, but I’d made a new friend who was about 10. He mimicked my (awful) skills, and I started showing off doing pull-ups on the crossbar during flurries of play. He couldn’t reach so I helped him up and we just mucked around.
It was great fun, but – again – imagine anyone letting a complete stranger do this with their kids back in the UK. I mean *horror* I actually touched him. Even as a registered teacher in the UK, if you touch a child you can be in trouble. This included hugging upset children in a primary environment – woe betide you if you do so without witnesses. Insane.
That’s not to say that Vietnam doesn’t have its share of scum who will take advantage of children. Blue Dragon has rescued several from brothels both here and in China. Add that to the sweatshop labour that some endure after they’re kidnapped or tricked away from their parents.
I just played catchup on Michael’s blog and there’s some good reading there from the last few weeks. I do urge you to pop over and flick through his posts from early June. Children as young as 11 rescued from sweatshops, three generations of one family finally given ID papers so they can receive education and healthcare, legal aid for some kids who are really off the rails… and more.
His blog’s located at http://vietnamstreets.blogspot.com/
Children are the single most important resource any country has. They need to be treated well, educated well, brought up well. They’re the future of this planet and whatever happens over the coming decade, centuries andÂ millennia is in their hands.
However, if we don’t take care of them then we’re screwed.
Blue Dragon is just one charity in one country, but it does a hell of a job. I’ve worked with these kids on and off for over four years now and I’d do anything for them. Â All I’m doing now is asking you to check out the web page, see what you can afford and drop them a few quid. Dollars. Whatever. They have dozens of projects on the go at once, and all of them will make good use of that cash.