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Category: Street kids

A good kid

Long was sleeping on the streets of Hanoi when we met him just a few months ago. He’s 16, but a skinny boy who still has his boyish charm. When we meet street kids, we have to accept that we know nothing about them. It’s easy to jump to conclusions about who they might be or why they might be homeless, and in fact it’s sometimes hard to not start making assumptions. At first Long was an unreadable book. I couldn’t quite understand him; at times he would light up…

Home

Today I’m writing from New Zealand, the first stop in my annual fundraising trip. By tonight I’ll be in Australia and spend a couple of weeks there catching up with people and attending events before heading home to Hanoi at the end of the month. One part of me loves these trips: I get to see friends from around the world, I share stories of what’s happening back in Vietnam, and I have the chance to see some blue skies. Another part of me dreads going away: deep down I’m…

The importance of 2000

On Sunday, Blue Dragon United played its 2000th game of football (or soccer, for my Australian readers!). We started in 2003, before there even was such a thing as Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation. We were just a bunch of friends in Hanoi wanting to help out the city’s street kids. The idea started with a Spanish member of our group suggesting the football as a solution to our overcrowded classroom. Maybe we could help more kids by taking our activities to a field. At that time they were mostly shoeshine boys,…

The cool kids

Thuan has a new piercing this week. He saved up money from his part time job and went down to the parlour around the corner from Blue Dragon. Like some other teens from our Hanoi centre, he now has multiple earrings, a few tattoos, and his hair is dyed another colour every other day. It’s all very inexpensive – the kids do much of this “self renovation” work themselves – but the result is incredibly cool. Trang doesn’t have any piercings, but she has defined herself through movement. In just a few short…

If only

Ton and Viet are neighbours in a village about two hours drive from Hanoi. The roads turn into alleys and then into dirt tracks, winding through the hills towards the quiet settlement that they call home. Both boys are aged 15 now. Both are the only child in their family; both have grown up with just their mother; and both live in houses so dilapidated that they are beyond being fit for any person to inhabit. With all this in common, both boys ran away from home together more than a…

The player

An old friend came to soccer this morning. Nam is 28 this year; he and his wife both work as chefs in Hanoi, and their beautiful son is 18 months now. But when I first met Nam, life was very different for both of us. The oldest son in his family, it was Nam’s duty to quit school and earn money when his mother fell on hard times. Nam left his home in Thanh Hoa province and traveled to Hanoi, where he started work shining shoes on the streets. We…

Heroes among us

Trong has a mobile phone business. He buys and sells second hand phones from a shopfront in a winding alley in Hanoi. All day long, people stop by to recharge their phone credit, or repair their broken screen, or sell the phone they bought a few weeks ago but now can’t afford. It’s a booming business, and in his spare time Trong dreams of opening a second shop so his brother has a job too. But first he hopes to marry his sweetheart – once he convinces her parents to agree to…

Endless night

Cleaning out my desk at home, I stumbled across an old photo. It was taken 12 years ago by a teenager who had just joined Blue Dragon and was learning photography with a volunteer. The photo is of a little girl aged 3 or 4, living in the Long Bien market of Hanoi with her grandmother. They are squatting in absolute filth beneath a staircase that crosses the dike wall; the entire sum of their possessions is a rotting blanket, a straw mat, and some scrap in plastic bags. I don’t…

A journey begins

Life is a long story.  These are the words written by ‘Tung’, one of the boys of Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation in Vietnam. He’s a boy who has been abandoned by his family; repeatedly lied to by his parents; sexually abused by dozens of men, both Vietnamese and international; and fed with meth to dull his pain and keep him subservient. But he’s also a boy who has decided, against all likelihood of success, to not let his life be defined by these afflictions. Over the course of the past 9…