This week, I had the option of reflecting on that 11-page novel “Paper Tigers” by Wesley Yang that was recently featured in New York Magazine, but seeing as how the topic of Tiger-anything nowadays is simply tiresome, I opted for a dose of something more inspiring instead.
If you didn’t catch it last month, the founder of Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation, Michael Brosowski, was featured on CNN Heroes. Blue Dragon is a grassroots foundation that sets out to rescue at-risk children – the “street kids” of Vietnam. Brosowski, an Australian teacher, came to Hanoi in 2002 to teach English at the national university. Shortly after, he found himself teaching a group of children who were living on the streets and barely getting by.
These street kids come from the countryside, seeking odd end jobs such as shoeshining or selling trinkets to support themselves or their families. But this lifestyle poses a number of dangers to these children, from gang violence to child trafficking, and “the lure of a booming heroin trade”. Blue Dragon provides the basic necessities – food, shelter, medical attention – in order to get these children off the streets.
“In Hanoi, Blue Dragon’s center offers food, clothing, classrooms, play space and a computer lab. There is also bed space for 20 in the group’s nearby shelter. Each child who comes through the center is provided with a dedicated social worker and has access to a psychologist, counselors, teachers and lawyers.”
Blue Dragon has helped over 2,500 children to date. Talk about inspiring – Brosowski left his job to devote himself to the foundation. In 2005, Blue Dragon’s mission expanded to include rescuing victims of child trafficking and finding ways to permanently disrupt trafficking rings altogether. His staff of 44 includes several of those whom the foundation has helped in the past.
Upon hearing of Michael Brosowski and his dedication to the Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation, I think most people would tell you that he’s deserving of his accolades and that we need more caring and competent people like him. But, as we all know, the Internet is filled with ogres hiding away in the murky corners of the World Wide Web, emerging only to release their stench on anything remotely positive.
If you skimmed through the CNN article page right after it was first published, you might have noticed a number of comments (since deleted) criticizing Blue Dragon and its founder and insinuating that Vietnam is undeserving of Brosowski’s efforts. It’s a wonder what these naysayers are doing on the CNN site at all – isn’t the purpose of the news to inform and educate? If they actually are reading and absorbing the news, the blatant ignorance displayed in their comments sure proves otherwise.
Some readers had the nerve to ask why the foundation wasn’t helping American children “back home” instead. Unless these readers are under the illusion that “Australia” is a synonym for “America,” I think it’s safe to assume that those commentators didn’t even read the article in its entirety. Thankfully, CNN user ruckuz caught the error and called out the ignorance: “Some comments in here are [borderline] heartless. I’m an American, living in NYC and I can’t believe how our fellow American can be so selfish.”
Some other readers still think countries never change from one generation to another. Said papadek, “Vietnam killed over 51,000 Americans, and we now have international trade with this country[…] someone please help me understand this, other than the obvious,” to which pfa2010 responded, “And the deaths of Vietnamese whether civilians or soldiers were in the millions…what’s your point?”
I say, let’s take this piece on Michael Brosowski for what it is – an inspiring story on a man with a big heart, and motivation for ourselves to do good for society. No need for political debate here. I’m all for free speech and basic civil rights, but the world would be a much better place if more people on the Web recognized stories like these for what they are, like knc0305 did: “Very touching story. You are a hero to these children Michael Brosowski. No matter what country this takes place in, children around the globe deserve to get this same opportunity.”
For more on Blue Dragon and ways to volunteer or sponsor a child, visit www.streetkidsinvietnam.com.