Vietnam has enjoyed one of the world’s highest rates of economic growth since 2000, but beneath the prosperity lies rising inequality. Economic liberalisation has widened the gap between rich and poor, urban and rural.
The disparity has forced many, including thousands of children, into poverty. This, coupled with complex social problems, has also led to children running away from home.
On the streets, children are deprived of their basic needs and are exposed to violence and exploitation.
The dangers are complex; from gang related violence to sexual predators in search of young victims. Sex offenders on the streets target young boys. Young girls from poor rural households are especially at risk of being trafficked to the sex trade in China.
To compound the problem, traffickers also use sophisticated methods, including social media, to lure vulnerable young people.
Blue Dragon started work in 2002, when it opened a safe house for six boys. Today Blue Dragon offers street children shelter, education, nutrition, health care, counselling, rescue and legal aid led by a team consisting of social workers, psychologists, teachers and lawyers.
Blue Dragon aims to get children out of danger, reunite them with their families where possible and support them to recover and grow.
Blue Dragon prides itself on taking a tailored approach, designing its services to meet the individual needs of each child.
In Hanoi, Blue Dragon has reached over 2,000 street children through its Step Ahead programme. In Bac Ninh province, Blue Dragon has supported 1,823 children in the Stay in School programme, while the Safe and Sound programme in the provinces of Hue and Dien Bien has provided a range of services to children who have been trafficked and those at risk of being trafficked.
The organisation has sent 3,121 children to school and provided accommodation to 248 youth and placed 195 young people in employment. In total, Blue Dragon has reached over 68,000 underserved children since its establishment.
Photos: Quoc Anh Tran/Stars Foundation