Today I get older but I really don’t want to concern you with that. It’s not important. I just found out that today is the anniversary of something of much more note – and I can’t believe that I only just heard of this recently.
Today, December 14th 2018, is exactly 100 years since the first general election in the UK where women were allowed to vote.
I honestly had no idea that this coincided with my birthday, and it completely overshadows an event I really don’t care much about any more anyway. Today is definitely a day to celebrate. Our nation took a massive step forward after the Armistice was agreed with Germany. The Great War ended, a General Election was called and 8.5 million women were given the vote.
100 years on and things are definitely better for women than they were back then, though there’s still room to go. So if you insist on giving me a present, there are two options:
Do something nice for a woman in your life – mum, wife, partner, daughter, co-worker, I don’t care.
Donate some cash to the Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation. Info can be found on their website.
So here’s a perfect reason for digging into your pocket and chucking some money at something worthwhile. This is the xmas letter from the wonderful staff at the Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation in Vietnam:
Dear Friend of Blue Dragon,
Those of you following my blog will know that this year has been both challenging and exciting for the children at Blue Dragon in Vietnam. In response to cries for help, we’ve rescued more children than ever before from factories and brothels. The rescues are difficult and dangerous – but every mission to bring freedom this year has been successful.
Since January we have conducted 19 rescue trips, both within Vietnam and also to China in search of trafficked young people. Altogether, we have rescued 82 victims of trafficking, including 12 girls from Chinese brothels. With support from Blue Dragon, these girls are all back with their families, or in education. Two have even married, and one has opened her own small business! These are all great successes we’re very proud of.
In Hanoi, we are currently working with 35 children who we have met living and working on the streets. This is an unprecedented number of kids in need of special protection and assistance. These children require not only accommodation and material support, but also counseling and psychological services to help them deal with trauma. Building trust and restoring psychological damage takes time, but it is an essential part of our work with Hanoi’s street kids.
Nearly 1,000 children throughout rural Vietnam are in school with financial assistance from Blue Dragon. Many of these children are supported by sponsors whose monthly donations ensure that families can pay school fees, and students have all the gear they need to attend school. Without this help, the vast majority of these kids would already be out of school, leaving them vulnerable to human trafficking.
Blue Dragon’s lawyers continue to achieve incredible success in supporting children through the legal system, prosecuting traffickers and providing legal identities. This year alone our team of three Child Rights Advocates have given legal advice in 715 cases and defended 19 children in conflict with the law. The Red Stocking Christmas Campaign has now raised enough money for 55 children to obtain a legal identity, and our team has plans to legally register over 1,000 children and their families in remote Dien Bien province in coming weeks.
THANK YOU for being a part of the Blue Dragon story with me this year. I appreciate your generous support in providing us with the funds to rescue children and assist Vietnamese children to a new start in life. All of us here at Blue Dragon – staff and kids – wish you a safe and happy Christmas.
As pretty much everyone who knows me knows, I am a massive supporter of Vietnam‘s Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation. They’re based in Hanoi and I’ve visited their centre(s) on several occasions, marveling at the work they do to improve the lives of children who would otherwise be pretty much ignore by society.
First things first, they have changed their web site address. I assume the old one will work for some time, but the preferred new one is now www.bluedragon.org. Please add this to your bookmarks and check them out.
Also, seeing as – according to the supermarket shelves anyway – it’s almost Xmas, can I please get in an early reminder about cards. That is, don’t send them. If you’re one of those people who liked to make sure they stay in touch over the holiday period with a nice bit of folded paper in an envelope, then I would be grateful if you could instead make a small donation to BDCF – and just send us an email.
Essentially, I’d rather one of the most well-run and effective charities I’ve ever seen gets the cash rather than Mr & Mrs Hallmark. While it is nice to have those extra decorations around the house from family and friends, I just feel that there are better places for the money to be going.
If you check their latest newsletter you’ll find out that Vietnam has a winter at the same time of year as we do, and kids living on the street need extra blankets and so on. Wouldn’t you rather keep one of them warm than pop a card in the post to us?
If you want to send something then Blue Dragon do a scheme where you can donate a certain value which is enough to cover [an item]. In return you get a nice PDF certificate which you can print out and send: “My gift to you bought this for the children”. That scheme launches on November 1st so check their page out then!
SCROUNGE ALERT: For those who didn’t notice (how?!) the beard has gone as is evidenced by the wedding photos which will be published shortly. I raised around Â£275 from the kids at school for doing it and my dad’s rounding it off to Â£300.
Now… how’s about you folks help me round it up further? Say, to Â£500, before I send it on? Also, I’ll be trying to send it via someone in the US or Australia so they can claim tax relief on the donation to increase it even more.
If you want to donate, drop me a message. I’ll happily give you my PayPal or bank details.
I’ve just been going through the “in progress” work that the wonderful Kristian (of Loondesign) is doing for Blue Dragon‘s website. The new “Kid’s stories” page details three tales of children who have found themselves fortunate enough to receive help from the crew at BDCF. Courtesy of a discussion I was having with someone on facebook recently, the third one made me wonder – why are people in different countries, yet in similar situations, so different.
I can’t link to the story directly as the site won’t be uploaded in its new form for a week or so, so I’ve pinched the relevant section:
Hanh grew up in Bac Ninh province with her mother, Khanh. Hanhâ€™s father walked out on her even before she was born, so that mother and daughter were homeless and had to live in abandoned houses.
When Blue Dragon met Hanh, she was 12 years old and living in a decrepit old house with no electricity or water supply. The roof had caved in and snakes infested the toilet area.
Hanh was still going to school, but her mother could not afford to pay the fees much longer. This was a family in crisis.
Blue Dragon immediately offered Hanh support to go to school, and then we set about securing land for the family and building a house that they could be proud of.
Today, Hanh is in the final years of High School and looking forward to university. Their new house is kept immaculately clean, and Hanh displays her certificates of achievement from school on the wall for all to see.
Let’s get this down to the simple facts. A family of two living in horrid conditions as a result of being left with no money manage their best for 12 years. Someone offers them help. They get a new house, the child goes to school and does well. The house is cleaned and maintained – by them – and kept as good as new.
Compare this to the UK where we have a benefits system to help people who find themselves in such a situation. Before I begin, I know that not everyone is the kind of person who will do what I’m about to rant about, but a ridiculously large number of people are.
First of all, there wouldn’t be a the 12 year wait before someone “found” them. Shortly after financial problems started, they would be able to apply for assistance. A house would be forthcoming, or at the least a flat. Their rent would be covered and assistance given to find work. Schooling is, of course, free in the UK. As a nation, we are incredibly fortunate.
Given where I lived for 13 years (Bradford) and specifically the area within it, I saw far too many examples of people who took the free house and turned it into a completeÂ dilapidatedÂ Â pit. Lawns turned to jungles, rubbish left lying, windows broken. Absolutely filthy. The simple thought being that it cost them nothing and if it got bad enough they’d just be moved somewhere else – again, for free.
Children would refuse to attend school, assuming their parents bothered to try to get them to go. Instead, they’d spend their time loitering,Â committingÂ crimes and ending up as the type of people who would be demanding another house of their own as soon as they were legally able.
The only major difference is that the Vietnamese family realised exactly how lucky they were to be given a fresh start. The appreciated it and showed their gratitude in taking this gift and showing how proud they were of the house and fresh start they had been given. A home to be proud of, academic achievements to boast about and a future they could never have dreamed of beforehand.
Here in the UK, we’re so used to getting something for nothing that we take our good fortune at being born in a comparatively wealthy country for granted. We’re like spoiled children – we want everything with no explanation as to why we’re getting it. To some extent it’s human nature to take the easiest route to solving a problem but some people, unfortunately, take this to extremes. Why put effort in when you can get something for nothing?
I think this is one of the reasons I enjoyed working in Vietnam so much, and especially with the children at the Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation. Everyone there appreciated what was being done for them. The vast majority took this piece of good fortune and turned it very much to their own advantage through hard work and with a great spirit. They knew they wouldn’t have another chance, and that they would have led a significantly worse life if they hadn’t.
If only we could make our own citizens realise how fortunate they are in comparison.