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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Blue Dragon: House 52 Shelter Appeal

Blue Dragon Children's Foundation

Here’s the deal – Blue Dragon need to raise $60,000 by the end of July or they’ll be kicked out of their current location. This is a hell of a shame as they’ve put a lot of work into making it a fantastic place for kids to drop in and be looked after. Also, if they move then it takes time for word to get out so future street children know where they can go to be safe.

Planet Wheeler have been hugely generous in agreeing to match every donation dollar for dollar – so BDCF “only” need to raise $30,000.

Please, please, please go to the following links and donate a little bit. If every friend I have on facebook donated the value of 1 beer we’d have almost $1500 to start with!

http://bdcf.org/dragon_house.html

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Don’t send me cards!

It’s time for the annual message, folks. Please do not send me any greetings cards. It’s both Christmas and my birthday this month and I really don’t want or need cards. The thought is appreciated, it really is. But I’m between houses (as ever) so have nowhere to decorate.

Besides, there are better uses for your cash than folding bits of paper. If you were considering sending me something the please just drop a quid into a charity box (your choice) instead. Your choice.

If you insist on getting cards, then kindly get one from here.

Thanks, as ever!

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Two charity updates

Blue Dragon Children's Foundation
Blue Dragon Children's Foundation

Nothing I’m directly connected with, at least as far as being actively involved, but here are two good ways to waste your cash instead of… I dunno… paying tax or something.

First up, the Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation are now selling Christmas cards. Yes, it’s only November but remember they’ll have to be shipped from Vietnam! Each card is hand-crafted by one of the teenagers who benefit from the money raised in their sale. They seem pricey, but note the title of each one – what you pay is what it goes towards – a desk and lamp, school books for a child, a winter coat and so on.

The full catalogue can be viewed here.

Next up is a chap who’s planning on doing something mental in 2011. Back in 2007 at the exact same time as I was walking across Europe for the aforementioned BDCF, Mark Allison was running from John O’ Groats to Land’s End in aid of a local hospice. A marathon a day, basically. In essence, he was running the same distance I was walking each day.

Run Geordie Run
Run Geordie Run

Well, he’s gearing up to beat that and plans to walk coast to coast across the US. That’s 3000 miles, trebling the distance I stumbled across.

All the costs of this jaunt will come out of his own pocket and every penny raised will go to St.Benedicts Hospice and The Childrens Foundation. In addition, for every pound raised before the end of 2009, Peter’s Pies will donate 50p. That’s incredibly generous.

For full details, please see Mark’s “Run Geordie Run” website. Oh, yeah – he’s a staunch Newcastle fan!

As ever, folks, every penny counts!

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