At 13 years old, I became a fundraiser for the first time. 

I’d visited the Royal Institute of Deaf and Blind Children on a school trip. When I was offered the chance to join the Miss Macarthur Junior Quest to raise money for them, I couldn’t say no. 

I wish I could remember how I raised the money but the truth is that I only recall that my fundraising skills were effective enough to have a ‘Miss Silver’ sash placed around my neck for fundraising and to go on to win the Miss Macarthur Junior Quest outright. 

Somewhere deep, a seed was planted. In 2014 I walked away from my teaching career and towards a new role at Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation – an Australian charity in Vietnam who supports street kids and rescues victims of human trafficking. 

There are people who work for a pay cheque but I have never been one of those people. In order to be able to turn up day after day with a full heart and a focused mind, I need to believe in the work that I do, the people I do it for and with, as well as the people who lead me. 

In fact, I believe in the mission and impact of Blue Dragon’s work so strongly that this July I’m going to swim the English Channel to raise money and awareness for Blue Dragon’s anti-trafficking work.

I first started swimming in the ocean in December 2020. I’d arrived home to Australia (and a two week hotel quarantine) after living in Vietnam. I was working remotely for Blue Dragon but that just didn’t seem like enough. I missed that daily contact with the children, my colleagues on-the-ground and I hoped that my new remote working role could still make a difference to Blue Dragon’s work. I couldn’t swim a full kilometer at the time, and I was frightened of sharks, fish and even seaweed! However, as new friendships made in the ocean blossomed, I started to make the most of the deep blue open sky and my confidence grew. So did the number of hours I spent swimming in the sea each week. 

In 2022, I swam 20km around Great Keppel Island and raised $20,000 for Blue Dragon to rescue children and women who had been sold into sexual slavery. It costs around $20,000 to set up comprehensive, highly effective anti-trafficking strategies in vulnerable communities. The money enables:
– the creation and implementation of community based anti-trafficking boards;
– surveying the community for vulnerable families and people who may have already been trafficked;
– creating sustainable incomes for families by gifting livestock to lift people out of poverty and reduce their need to take the sort of risks that can lead to being trafficked;
– running education programs for students; and
– keeping all of the local children in school.

That first fundraising swim was an incredible experience. However, I now turned my sights to a bigger goal: swimming the English Channel and raising $200,000 for Blue Dragon to set up anti-trafficking initiatives in 10 new communities. When an incredible friend offered to help me meet the costs of getting to Dover, the dream started to become a reality. 

Importantly, however, this journey has also allowed me to reflect more deeply on the role of individual fundraising in international development in 2024. Even though many of the key discussions in international development now center around major development financing: raising capital for the Sustainable Development Goals, impact investing and private capital mobilisation, it is clear to me that there is still an important role for individual fundraising in our sector.

Professionally, this new goal has allowed me to grow confidence, network-build and reach out to new potential donors for Blue Dragon. While in the past my role had been working with students and teachers, in the past 12 months I’ve stepped far out of my comfort zone to meet with founders, CEOs, CFOs and movers and shakers at some of the most impressive and human rights minded companies in Australia. My individual fundraising project has proved incredibly effective when it comes to forging new, long-term collaborations and network building in our sector.

Personally, it has also given me courage to become a stronger advocate. I hope that my connections with Australian businesses and individuals within those businesses might inspire them to see the very human and global face of their impact when they go beyond complying with governance. The Modern Slavery Act in Australia is one step towards creating a free-er, more equitable world without slavery, but it doesn’t go far enough. Blue Dragon goes beyond hoping that third and fourth tier supply chains are slavery free, to making certain that people are living lives where they can not just survive, but start to thrive, free from the cycle of poverty. I’ve seen first hand the impact when companies don’t take these responsibilities seriously and I couldn’t be more grateful to those who understand that what they do, and how they do it, really does matter – not just to their bottom line, but to our very humanity.

And finally, it has also allowed me to share my passion for fundraising with my family, peers and network. My 13 year old niece has grown up seeing me live my life in two countries, torn between my love for my family and my need to do work that fills my soul. Earlier this year, as a childhood cancer survivor herself, she created her own fundraising group – a 24 hour walking group to raise money for equipment at Campbelltown Children’s Hospital cancer wards. I saw the pride in her friend’s faces as they walked, hand in hand around the oval, inspired by her tenacity to not only have survived leukaemia but to also become a fundraiser to help other children. And as she saw that pride in her friends and family’s eyes I could also see her grow a little taller. I was so proud to have been able to bring my own professional and personal fundraising experience to support her on her own unique journey.

Ultimately, I swim because I love it. And I raise money for Blue Dragon because I believe in the difference they make in the world. I’m so proud that our personal, transparent approach to fundraising and spending ensures that our supporters can feel comfortable that their money is making an enormous difference. And when swimming and my professional life get tough, I keep going because it’s such a privilege to be able to choose our challenges in life. I have that freedom through no deserving of my own. In return, I want every day I live to bring someone else a little closer to that same freedom.


Kim Miller

Kim Miller is the Schools and Partnerships Coordinator at Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation, an Australian charity in Vietnam. Blue Dragon is ending human trafficking in Vietnam, while simultaneously rescuing victims and providing the care and support needed to enable vulnerable people to thrive. Kim has a background in education and social work and is a passionate advocate for equality and social justice. Her role at Blue Dragon combines her skills, knowledge and experience to support and inspire people around the world to understand and take action on the issues that impact disadvantaged young people in Vietnam – including poverty, modern slavery and human trafficking. She is also an ocean swimmer who will attempt to swim the English Channel for Blue Dragon this July to raise money for the implementation of anti-trafficking programs.

Feature image: A Blue Dragon social worker reflects with a survivor of human trafficking in Vietnam. Source: Blue Dragon.