Kids ‘n stuff

Blue Dragon Children's Foundation

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.

What a grin!
How happy does *he* look?

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 and 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.  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.

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Amy

hey Iain!

Glad to hear you’re enjoying your time in Vietnam. The job sounds crazy. I wouldn’t be able to put up with so many parties, especially when you have to be looking out for other guests.

This post puts tears in my eyes. (No, it’s not hormonal!) I know exactly what you mean re: male affection towards children. It’s so sad that the Western world has come to this. A cousin of mine once told me about how an elderly man saw her toddler when they were out shopping, he commented on how adorable the child was, then lightly touched her cheek. My cousin said she found it creepy. And I was not only surprised, but also sad. If my Dad was to do the same to a stranger’s child (he loves kids!), would
they think the same? Why is it that we live in these amazingly safe countries, and yet people are so fearful and suspicious?!!

I also feel you re: not yet having your own kiddies. It will happen because I believe good things happen to good people. And we all know you’ll be the best father to them! In the mean time, I’m sure you’re bringing much joy to many other precious kids. Keep it up!

hugs, amy

Amy

oh, and i forgot. Can i ask for some tips on how to manage two wordpress blogs? which you obviously are doing.
In particular, what Stats program are you using?

Dewi Morgan

Ah, found your blog again 😛

This isn’t a new problem. When I was a wee thing, 30 years or so ago, a lady I knew called Totally Notmymum Yerhonner* used to foster kids.

These weren’t parentless kids, just kids who, for some reason or another, needed to be away from their parents. Typically, they were city kids, from big families.

And the rule was: you don’t, ever, sleep in the same room as the foster kids. They get their own room, and spend the whole night[**] in it.

And so the child would be there, in the strange countryside environment, used to sleeping surrounded by the warm snoring bodies of siblings and hearing cars on the road, and now just hearing scary owl sounds and bat-flutters and fox-yips outside the room.

And they’d start to cry. Quietly, trying not to wake anyone. But how could they help it?

So the rules required Notmymum to use solitary confinement and terror to traumatically torture the already-upset child separated from their family under extremely stressful circumstances, during that part of the day when they felt at their most vulnerable.

That they didn’t also add that you should wake the kids by waterboarding was I’m sure merely a clerical oversight that they’ll have fixed by now.

Thankfully, Notmymum was a sensible woman, with no time for such silly rules if someone is hurting, so she’d pull an armchair up beside the kids’ beds, and go to sleep holding their hands.

[* Name changed to protect the innocent]
[** Because night time is evil.

These are *foster parents*. They spend the *entire day* alone with the kids, including dressing, undressing, bathing, etc. If they were going to molest the kids, they’d have the whole damn day to do it. What makes the night special?

For the same reason, parents don’t mind boyfriend and girlfriend going off all day together, even though they remember themselves as kids going into the woods for naughty stuff. But parents are not OK for them to spend the night together. What makes the night special?

Night time is evil!]