Back Stories » Hanoi » Sweating for a Good Cause at the Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation Walk in Hanoi

Sweating for a Good Cause at the Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation Walk in Hanoi

I learnt of the Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation in my first year living in Hanoi, through friends that had worked for the fantastic organization, or that were regular donors supporting it. This year, I was super excited to see their “Blue Dragon Marathon Walk” annual fundraiser announced, with the main Hanoian event looping around Thống Nhất Park's lake. Embracing the opportunity to contribute, I put my hand up for a 10K walk and enticed friends and family from around the world to send donations to the wander-for-a-cause.

Thống Nhất is my favorite park in the city. And as I liken walking in Hanoi to playing dodge-ball whilst running hurdles in a sauna, I dare say I have not walked any 10K in this fine city. On September 10, as I donned my Thượng Đình kicks and shuffled down to the park, I looked forward to meeting Skye Maconachie, the Foundation’s CEO.

The Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation is a Hanoi-based charity focusing on improving the welfare of children across Vietnam through various programs, such as taking care of street kids, rescuing victims of human trafficking, and providing help for many other disadvantaged young Vietnamese. To date, the organization has rescued 1,388 people from trafficking, represented 256 people in court cases, sent 6,305 kids back to school and training, and more.

The green scenery of Thống Nhất Park. Photo via Kenh14.

The Marathon Walk fell on a fabulously humid day with the park full of its usual mayhem, from the miniature train running shaky loops, children scrambling wild through the bushes to the sweet smell of burnt xúc xích — a fine way to spend a Sunday in an urban frolick. I spotted Maconachie through the mass of walkers.

“I have a long 20-year relationship with Blue Dragon. I actually first came to Blue Dragon, because my dad owned a pub here in Hanoi. I came to visit him, loved Hanoi and it became my homebase for the next decade,” she reminisced. “Through my dad’s pub, I was introduced to Michael [Brosowski], the founder, in the very early early days when it was a few volunteers coming together to teach English to the street kids that were playing weekly football. I jumped in, very happy to help and discovered this amazing group of people that were trying to do whatever was in their means to help these kids. I saw the organization grow, we were growing together at different levels. I would go away and get a Masters and other experience, and finally I decided to fully commit to my relationship with Blue Dragon. Now, for the last eight years I have been working full-time for the organization.”

Skye Maconachie making a speech at the Walk.

Blue Dragon began as a small volunteer group in 2002, when the organization’s founder, Michael Brosowski, arrived to teach English at a university in Hanoi and met numerous street children in urgent need of support. During the past two decades, Blue Dragon’s work has evolved organically, and today it has offices in four Vietnamese provinces and initiatives reaching 20,000 people across Vietnam every year. Blue Dragon rescues children and adults who have been deceived and became trapped in modern slavery across Southeast Asia and within Vietnam. They conduct outreach work on the streets of Hanoi every night to assist street children and youth, many of whom have been exploited, groomed by pedophiles, or targeted by street gangs.

“We work within the legal system and with the authorities. We contribute our strengths and the expertise acquired through our grassroots work to this existing system, in order to make it work better,” Maconachie explained. “It's a long game. We have been doing that for many, many years, but we have seen significant changes in the laws, and in Vietnam's ability and expertise to conduct rescues. All of our work is done in cooperation with the Vietnamese police because it's not just about the rescue part, there is a long process that goes on. The investigation of the crime, working with the victim in order to identify and arrest a trafficker or trafficking ring, etc. There is a whole protection and prosecution process, and the rescue is one part of it. We see through our work that the system is quite functional.”

Supporting street children is among the goals of Blue Dragon.

Supporting girls from underprivileged communities with stationery and equipment so they can continue their education.

Because vulnerability takes many shapes and the drivers of human trafficking vary from one community to another, Blue Dragon tailors all interventions to the specific needs and circumstances of each child, family, and village they assist. For instance, to keep a child living in poverty in Hanoi safe and in school, their family may need some assistance to set up a street food stall that helps them earn a stable income. Meanwhile, preventing human trafficking in remote, mountainous communities often involves training neighbors to form Anti-Trafficking Boards, screen their communities for potential victims, report human trafficking cases to the authorities, and assist their fellow neighbors when and where they need it, and in their own ethnic language.

 “The regional trends in human trafficking that are affecting Vietnamese people are very much driven by the increased vulnerability people are facing post-Covid,” she said. “Before the pandemic, we already worked with people and communities who were very disadvantaged and vulnerable. And post-Covid, we have seen that exacerbated across the country. We have seen trafficking spread from the main groups of people who have been historically trafficked from remote rural areas — most of whom come from ethnic minority backgrounds — to it being so widespread that people with tertiary educations or business owners are now vulnerable to human trafficking.”

Hanoians at the walk.

One of the challenges faced by most non-profit organizations is the sourcing of funding. And Blue Dragon, with over 130 staff across the country is no exception. The Blue Dragon Marathon Walk is a global event that takes place every year to raise funds for the Foundation. Participants can choose to walk or run any amount of kilometers, individually or as part of a team. Maconachie and her 2.5-year-old daughter walked their marathon over the weekend.

“It’s just incredible,” she shared. “I was really moved by seeing all of these people and companies, not only here in Hanoi, but around the country, as well as around the globe who were just so grateful for the opportunity to be able to help people in slavery, and really with all of their heart and commitment. They spent months leading up to this where they were raising money and training and doing different things. So what we saw here in Hanoi was just a microcosm of what was happening around the world.”

Many supporters from the capital came to support the marathon.

The Blue Dragon Walk, however, was not always an international challenge. The first Walk took place in Hong Kong in 2011. Seven walkers from an Australian construction company based there took the challenge of walking 50 kilometers from one side of the island to the other. In 10 hours, they traversed the rugged and often very hilly Hong Kong trail, and in doing so, not only raised US$35,000 for Blue Dragon’s transformative work, but also began what is now an annual tradition for families, friends, and colleagues in Vietnam and around the world.

The next walk wouldn’t take place until 2015, when a team of Blue Dragon volunteers and a team of staff from the chain of Vietnamese restaurants Roll’d undertook the first Blue Dragon marathon walk in Australia, along the Great Victorian trail. Since then, the event has been celebrated annually with the Intrepid Foundation — the philanthropic arm of sustainable travel company Intrepid Travel — providing their support as hosts from 2018.

Runners in Sydney.


As a serendipitous consequence of the constraints created by the pandemic, the Blue Dragon Walk got catapulted to the global scene. As walkers did not need to be present in the same location, Blue Dragon supporters from around the world decided to take the challenge wherever they were. Since then, the walk has been an international event, gathering support in places as diverse as Germany, Nepal, the United States, Singapore, and nearly 300 people around the globe joined the walk in 16 countries in 2022.

“A lot of the time in our work, because it is so difficult and challenging, we can become quite insular. So it's just really wonderful to see the support and the solidarity for Vietnamese people who are in slavery, or really at high risks of being trafficked and exploited,” she noted. “To see so many people who care about them and the issue, and that want to stand up and do something to help them, I was really moved, and touched by seeing the Blue Dragon seeping through this wider circle of wonderful human beings who want to see a better world and end human trafficking.”

Điện Biên


Throughout the years, the Walk has also received the support of companies like Australia Pacific Travel Group, who, for two years in a row, have made matching donations to the amount raised through their teams of staff walkers. Since 2018, the Blue Dragon Walk has raised nearly US$500,000; 2023 was an exceptional year with more than 500 people taking part, raising more than US$200,000.

I must say with a certain sense of pride that I surpassed my fundraising goal, thanks to the generous help of friends and family. My Thượng Đình also miraculously survived, and the layer of sticky sweat was very much worth the glorious trundle. But what about those of you who missed out on the walk? Fear not, there are many ways to contribute. “Contact us!” said Maconachie. “We receive support all year round, not only on the Marathon Walk. If people want to run their own fundraisers they are very welcome to do that. If they want to donate, offer their expertise or time, or want to spread the word about Blue Dragon to family or their community. Every little bit helps, and we have a whole team here who can share information to get people connected to those opportunities to be able to support the work of Blue Dragon.”

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