Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Saying Goodbye...sniff...sniff...sniff

After such an incredible final performance and also the most amazing 11 weeks together, ending the program and saying good bye to the kids was something none of us were looking forward too. However on the 18th August they all head back to school, so our timing was perfect. These children have taught me so much about compassion, understanding, family, courage, responsibility and true joy! Just thinking of their faces as I write this brings tears to my eyes.
The Right to Shine really touched the hearts and lives of these children and their communities, and I am so grateful to have been a part of that process.On my last day with kids from both the villages, I witnessed a new sense of self and confidence amongst the kids. And also, a closeness amongst all the members of the group, this program really connected people to people and created an indepth understanding of each other. This has given them a new courage to embark on their journey's regardless of their daily difficulties.

Our final workshop with each other was truly beautiful. After 4 weeks of performance creation and rehearsals, the kids got to freely explore their creativity and imaginations again with a couple of drama games. They were over the moon! The kids also got to watch themselves perform on DVD, and received certificates of participation, photo albums of their 'Right to Shine' journey, and a special note from Linh, Nam and I telling them the things we love about them. Watching the kids faces as they looked through their personalised albums and reading their special notes was so beautiful. I am sure they will cherish them for a long while to come, just as I will cherish this incredible opportunity to bring joy to the lives of such precious children.

Admiring their performance

Sharing memories

Nothing like a good dance to distract us from our tears!

We are so proud of you!

Phuong Dien kids:

What does this program mean to you? What is one thing that you learnt that you can apply in your life?

  • This program has been very meaningful. I have become very confident and now when I go out I have the feeling of a movie star.
  • This has been very meaningful, it has brought the opportunity to shine like movie stars. I have learnt confidence.
  • This program is very useful. It can prevent us from going to Saigon and also provide a very comfortable place to play in the summer holidays out of the sun. It also gives us the right to shine!
  • I have been able to improve my English and it has helped me to be confident in front of people.
  • I am confident on stage so now I can express my real feelings.
  • Now I can act on stage and have confidence within myself.
  • I am confident in public now.
  • My parents won’t send me to Saigon anymore.
  • I am no longer embarrassed in front of people, I used to be very nervous.
  • When we gather here it is a good place to play in the shade. Now I am confident to act without laughter.
  • This program has brought me a very nice time with my friends, and now I am no longer nervous on stage.

A hysterical hairdresser scene!

They were so happy to improvise again

Watching their performance, drew a crowd!

Our final group circle

They all deserve a BIG clap!

Hai Tien Kids:

What does this program mean to you? What is one thing that you learnt that you can apply in your life?

  • I learnt a lot form this program. Before I used to want to go to Saigon, so I could earn money to help my family but now I have changed my mind.
  • This was a very interesting program.
  • This summer program has been so interesting, fun and filled with a lot of joy. One of the things I learnt was that I need to continue to go to school, to keep my dreams alive and believe they are possible, and to be a good citizen of the country.
  • I am so grateful to Linh, Nam and Skye who taught me drama. And I am so thankful I got to perform on the stage.
  • I am very grateful to Linh, Nam and Skye for teaching me drama and thankful for this program. Now I understand that Saigon is a dangerous place to work.
  • I love drama
  • For me, this has been a very useful program
  • I learned from the performance to be careful who you trust, because bad people can hurt you.
  • I am so grateful to Linh, Nam and Skye and Blue Dragon. I learnt a lot about what I should and shouldn’t do. I also gained confidence to be on stage.
  • Apart from what I said in my speech at the performance, this program has been so exciting for me, with lots of fun games. I will share these games with my friends at school so it can also bring them the same joy. All the different situations we were given to improvise and think about has taught me how to best react in many situations.
  • This program brought a lot of fun games and we got to know each other very well. I now am confident on stage and it helped the kids in Hai Tien to be famous.
  • The program brings so much happiness to me. I really loved my character and felt that I was successful in my role and I will do it again.
  • I am so sad to end this program. The joy in my life is my friends, Skye and Linh in this program. So I will miss Skye and Linh very much.
  • I never thought that we ( us trafficked kids) would have the chance to be on stage. This 3 month program brought us to the stage.
  • The program has brought a lot of joy to me and has lifted me up.
  • This has been a very meaningful program and I understand more about drama.
  • I am so happy with Linh, Nam and Skye and very sad when Linh and Skye leave.
  • This program has created joy and friendship for me. And I am so sad when it ends. Hopefully Linh, Skye and Nam will come back to do it again.
  • This program has been very useful because it has connected kids to kids. I hope in the future we will have many wonderful programs like this.
  • I understand more about drama, and I am very sad to say goodbye.
  • I learned a lot about drama, Skye taught me a lot. I am very sad when you leave.
  • You have changed a lot of things here, I am very sad when you leave.
  • I am happy with the program and sad without it.
  • I learned a lot from this program and I don’t want to go to Saigon anymore.
  • I don’t want to go to Saigon anymore, before it was a paradise in my mind.
  • I learnt a lot from this program, now I have become more careful about strangers.
  • In the performance, you put the chracters from life, so I learnt a lot from the performance
  • I am very sad when you leave. The lesson for me is to me a loving human being, and don’t be cruel.

I would like to give a big thankyou to everyone who has supported this program in some shape or form, especially Blue Dragon Children's Foundation, The Red Cross, ArtAction and Nadine Ziegeldorf. I also need to give a very special thanks to Linh and Nam who have been the most incredible team I could have ever asked for. Throughout this whole program, they have shown immense care, love, compassion and support to all the children in the program, and to me. If it wasn't for all of their efforts, this program would not have been possible. So I thank them from the bottom of my heart for working so tirelessly with their hard core Aussie Team Leader. I send them all of my love as they continue to work with the daily issues and lives of these incredible children and their families. If anyone would like to support these children further through the 'Safe and Sound' program, please contact Blue Dragon Children's Foundation www.bdcf.org

Linh and Nam

Monday, 10 August 2009

Their big night to SHINE!!

At the beginning of this project, I wrote a blog titled " Shine, they definitely will". Well on Tuesday 4th August SHINE, they definitely did! Kids from both villages came together to perform for the commune of Thuan An. We had over 1000 people in the audience and 65 performers backstage, including the Water puppet team. We literally performed in a dust bowl, and the crowd loved every minute of it, there wasn;t a dry eye in the audience.

The kids were absolutely incredible, they were so supportive of each other and completely rocked it up on stage. I am so so so proud of them. I will let the photos and kids feedback tell the story for you, as words can not capture how incredible this night was; for our children, for the community adn for us. Our children are truly shining!



Over the past 10 weeks, Linh, Nam and myself have had the privilege of working with 43 children from Hai Tien and Phuong Dien villages. I always remind myself that you can never underestimate a child, if you stop and ask them what it is he or she needs, they have an answer, and usually a good one, afterall we are all experts of our own lives, and at such young ages they already have invaluable knowledge and wisdom to contribute to this world. However as an adult I feel that it is our responsibility to protect, support and guide them through their journey.

Our initial reason for creating this program was to give children who had already been trafficked, and children who are at high risk of being trafficked, an opportunity to share their lives and experiences with each other, and to then tell their stories to their communities. Also, for us to give them the opportunity to explore their own potential and alternative positive options to working in Saigon, and of course to have a whole lot of fun whilst doing it. And I believe that’s what we did!

For the first three weeks, we spent time getting to know one another and developing our groups through trust, teamwork and games. We also developed a language of theatre in which they could express themselves and explore their creativity. In the following 3 weeks we looked at the children’s experiences of trafficking and the issues in their lives that contribute to this situation. We also explored how the children can affect their own lives and make positive contributions amongst their communities and towards their future dreams. Finally in the past 3 weeks we have woven together their stories and created the performances you are about to see tonight.

It has been an incredible journey for all of us. I can say for sure, that Linh, Nam and I are so proud of every one of these children. In my years of working with young people, I have never met such an incredibly talented, willing, courageous, resilient and accepting group of kids. We have laughed, cried and shared our hearts with each other and I thank them all for teaching us so much. In my eyes this project is already a success, because as you will see tonight, every one of these children are shining!

I thank you all for coming to support these kids tonight, but more importantly thank you for coming with a willingness to hear their stories and may you gain a greater understanding of the reality of life for a working child in Vietnam. May we all continue to work together to create safer lives and brighter futures for our children.


How did you feel after the performance, and what did your family and friends think of the performance?

  • At first, I was very nervous but when I got on stage I gained confidence. Our story really affected the audience, many people were crying. My friends really admired us and asked how we kept a straight face whilst performing
  • During the performance we could ride the emotion of the audience, when they laughed and cried. My mother said that we did very well!
  • I was very nervous before the performance, but when I went up on stage my nervousness was finished. The audience said that the cruel trafficker character I played was very suitable for me. But infact, when I beat Lan on stage I just wanted to cry. I cried backstage after that scene.
  • Our performance was very good and our dance was amazing!
  • Many of my friends said the performance was very good and many cried.
  • My family and friends admired my character
  • I was so nervous before, but once on stage I was fine. When Lan cried on stage, my parents cried too.
  • My family was very happy to see me on stage and very happy with our performance
  • I was very happy to be on stage. My family was very satisfied to see me on stage. They thought it was a huge success.
  • My friends didn’t say anything to me on the night, but the next day when I went out with my friends, they said the performance was great and that it could affect the community and change the minds of the mothers who want to send their children to Saigon in the future.
  • I was very nervous. After the performance I didn’t hear any comments but in the following days I heard that it was a very successful performance.
  • Before the show I was so nervous when I saw all the people who had come to watch, and after, my friends said that I did very well.
  • I was really nervous even on stage. But after the scene when I was the leader of the gang, I felt very confident.
  • There were so many people, I was so nervous, but like everyone else as soon as I got on stage I felt very confident. Many people gave very good comments about my performance. Some people teased me about “ selling my 2 pigs so I could travel to Saigon to rescue my daughter”. But my friends admired me and said that only a talented girl could play that role.
  • Our neighbors were suprised that “Huong’s Daughter” was on stage.
  • I was very happy when a lot of people applauded and supported us after the performance.
  • I looked at the audience and could see that a lot of people were crying. It was a success!!!
  • I was nervous but after on stage, I felt confident. I didn’t hear any bad comments about my performance. It felt great to be in a performance that created awareness amongst families to stop sending their kids to Saigon.
  • I was very very nervous before the performance, but once I was on stage, I didn’t want to leave.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

What a Night:Our first community performance

The past couple of weeks have been an absolute whirlwind, so I apologise for my lack of blogging. However, absolutely every minute of hard work has been worth it! On Wednesday the 29th July, 14 kids from Phuong Dien Village performed for over 700 people from their community and absolutely ROCKED! The audience laughed and cried and clapped, and the kids were so proud of themselves. We performed alongside the Hue Water Puppet troupe - who provided singers, puppetteers, and entertainment for the crowds. It was a wonderful balance and the water puppets really warmed up the audience ready for our kids - the main performance!

The kids were supposed to meet us at 4pm in the afternoon for their technical run and dress rehearsal on the stage. However at 2pm, all the kids were in their costumes and waiting excitedly at the meeting point. The kids looked so beautiful in their costumes and they were so switched on and ready to listen to instructions from our Water Puppet Director to get them through the technical stuff and also to adapt to such a huge audience. Oh it was so wonderful. Linh, Nam and I are just so very proud of them, I can't fully express in words.

Throughout the day, the local Red Cross made 5 announcements over the loud speakers in the commune, advertising the performances. When some of the kids went to the market in the morning, the sellers asked them if they were the ones performing tonight?" The kids asked them how they knew, and their reply was "Everyone Knows, we are all coming!" How wonderful. And yes, they ALL CAME! there was so much joy and excitement in the audience, a night just for them with children from their own village as the stars!

I can't give enough thanks to the different groups who all pulled together to make this night possible. When Linh, nadine and I arrived at 2:30pm we stood there and looked at the naked stage, which was looking like building scaffolding, I couldn't help but laugh and surrender. Then teh Red Cross arrived, and Mr Tue arrived, and in true 'techy' style with a roll of wire hung on his arm, he immediately got to work putting banners, securing the stage, climbing trees to clear the branches which were blocking the stage, just epic! Then the water puppets rolled in and started putting up their backdrop, and last but not least the Sound and lighting guys arrived, backed up their truck and got straight to work. It was beautiful to watch everything coming together, adn the kids just loved being a part of it, seeing all these people working together to make sure that their performance would be incredible. Pretty special indeed.

I will let the photos tell the rest of the story ....

Our village stage

Couldn't have done it without these guys!

Our beautiful banner

The new advertisement for the Red Cross

Mr Tue climbing the tree

The Right to Shine

Sound and lights arrive

The stage

Tuat and his balloons

Tuan and Truyen backstage

The kids from Phuong Dien!!!

Village scene

The fishing boat exits stage left

On the bus to Saigon

Linh giving direction

Getting mic'd up

Testing testing 1 2 3

The dance routine, look out Backstreet Boys!

Beautiful girls

The Boys!

Team Ready!

Lights, camera, action

The crowd loved them!

Our little superstar Tuan

Some of the crowd

The kids Bow

Supporting the singers!