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Battling Human Trafficking in Vietnam


26 January 2024 at 9:00 am
Ed Krutsch
Michael Brosowski AM is the Founder and Strategic Director of Blue Dragon Children's Foundation in Vietnam, which is working towards the end of human trafficking. Michael is this weeks Pro Bono Australia Change Maker.


Ed Krutsch | 26 January 2024 at 9:00 am


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Battling Human Trafficking in Vietnam
26 January 2024 at 9:00 am
After graduating from UNSW Sydney in 1995, Michael Brosowski taught English and ESL in south-western Sydney before returning to UNSW to study a Masters of Education while working in the School of Education. Upon completion, he moved to Vietnam and in 2004 registered Blue Dragon, initially to assist Hanoi’s street children. Working as the organisation’s CEO, he grew Blue Dragon to become the country’s leading NGO fighting human trafficking and child exploitation.
Michael is a CNN Hero and Member of the Order of Australia. In 2023 he received the prestigious Alumni Award for Social Impact from UNSW. Today he is the Strategic Director, leading the strategy of Blue Dragon’s ambitious 10-year plan to eliminate human trafficking in Vietnam. Read on for our change maker interview with Michael!
Describe your career trajectory and how you got to your current position.
I started out as a high school ESL teacher in Sydney and moved to Vietnam in 2002. Initially I was teaching in an economics university but started meeting street kids who wanted to learn English. Before long, my university students and I were running classes and a football club… then we opened a shelter… and soon Blue Dragon was born. I was the CEO until 2022. Now we have 2 co-CEOs running the organisation and I’m in the role of Strategic Director.


What does this role mean to you?

It’s a chance to make a change on a very big scale. Blue Dragon is working on the question of how to end human trafficking in Vietnam and we believe that the answers we find will inform anti-trafficking initiatives around the world. Along the way, I have a chance to help so many people out of poverty, slavery and crisis; how could I not do this? An unusual aspect of our work is that we help people at the individual level – rescuing people from slavery and assisting homeless children to get off the streets – while also helping communities and schools to develop and then going a step further to taking part in national law reform initiatives. So we are impacting the whole ecosystem and every day is an opportunity to do something amazing.


Take us through a typical day of work for you.

I’m on email by 7am, responding to messages that have come in overnight. I’m usually at the Blue Dragon centre mid morning to mid afternoon to meet with the teams and catch up on what’s happening. Lunch at our centre is with the kids and staff together – a highlight of every day and always very lively. In the afternoons I typically have meetings with partners and supporters, both in person and offline. I take a break in the late afternoon to catch up on news and reading; then back to the computer in the evening to review reports and (if I’m lucky) do some writing.


What is the biggest challenge you’ve encountered in your career, and how did you overcome it?

As a founder, the whole organisation – as well as the public – tends to look to you for leadership and pretty much everything else. That works well in startup phase, but for long term sustainability it can be a real problem. So I’ve been spending some years on developing the organisation in such a way that there’s much less reliance on me and much more capacity in our systems and teams to do brilliant work without me. This is why we moved to a co-CEO model, which is working really well, and we’ve worked hard to build up leadership and strong systems across the organisation.


If you could go back in time, what piece of advice would you give yourself as you first embarked on your career?

Take more time to look after yourself.

 

How do you stay motivated to work in this field?

I am incredibly fortunate to see firsthand the outcomes of Blue Dragon’s work. I meet many of the people we help and hear their stories daily. We deal with terrible situations, such as slavery and sexual exploitation, but we also see the change that we can make in people’s lives. Since we started, we’ve rescued about 1,500 people directly from brothels, sweatshops, forced marriages and online scam centres. It’s hard to not be motivated when we see someone set free from human trafficking and given the opportunity to start life over.


How do you unwind after work?

Animals and nature are the key to my peace of mind. I live in Hanoi, so it takes some effort to get out into nature or to be with animals, but it’s always worth it.


What was the last thing you: Watched, Read, & Listened to?

Right now I’m listening to the audiobook of Ken Wilber’s “Theory of everything” and reading Seneca’s letters.

Ed Krutsch  |  @ProBonoNews

Ed Krutsch works part-time for Pro Bono Australia and is also an experienced youth organiser and advocate, he is currently the national director of the youth democracy organisation, Run For It.


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