When you meet Duy, you know right away that you’re going to like him.
He’s quite small for his age and looks much younger than he really is. But he makes up for it with his big personality: he’s funny and smart and loves to meet new people.
His personal story is one of hardship. Duy is from a very poor community high up in the mountains of northern Vietnam. It’s a stunningly beautiful region and wonderful to visit; but for people who live there, life can be extremely difficult.
So in July 2022, when Duy’s family was facing a tough financial situation which was causing tension at home, he decided to set out on his own.
Typical of his tenacity and cleverness, Duy found his way to Hanoi, more than 400km from his tiny village.
As so many kids do, he imagined that he would find a world of wonder and comfort in the big city – but of course, it’s exactly the opposite. Children turning up with no money in their pockets are immediate targets for exploitation.
Duy got by for a week before a Blue Dragon social worker met him beside a lake – tired, sick, and disappointed that his dream of adventure hadn’t worked out.
While he was staying in our emergency shelter, Duy decided that he just wanted to go home. He missed his family and they missed him. He’d put the adventurous life behind him and get back to his village.
And it worked – for a few weeks. Duy was happy to be home but impatient to change his fortunes. Even though Blue Dragon had promised to visit him soon and see how we could help the family, Duy decided again to head out on his own.
This time: Cambodia.
Right now, Cambodia is a place of extreme danger for Vietnamese people seeking work (and for many other nationalities, too). Thousands of people from the region are enslaved in compounds where they’re forced to go online and scam people around the world. It’s a multi-million dollar business, but the people in these compounds aren’t paid anything. They can’t escape and the only way out is to pay their bosses a huge ransom – up to $20,000.
Had Duy crossed into Cambodia, he would have been in grave danger.
But again he got lucky. The Vietnamese police spotted him heading to the border and intervened. Duy was annoyed at first- he had thought he was on his way to a great job! – but when he understood the trouble he was in, he called us to ask for the bus fare to go home. Again.
Even now, Duy’s thirst for adventure was yet to be quenched.
As winter rolled into his village, Duy wanted to try one more time to make his own way into the world. So once more, he made the 400km journey to Hanoi without telling anybody. His intentions were good – he just wanted to find a way to work and support his family! But once more he was heading into danger.
When we found Duy the second time, he was cold and hungry… and ready to accept that these adventures weren’t a great idea.
He came back to the emergency shelter for some food and rest; and when he was ready, we accompanied him home.
As we so often see, there were tears all around when Duy returned home. His elderly grandmother in particular feared that she would never see her grandson again. While he was missing, she had bought him some winter clothes so that she would have a gift for him if he found his way home. Grandma was so happy that she could hand Duy his gift, and he was overwhelmed to know how much he is loved.
Duy’s adventures aren’t over. Life is a long story, and this adventurous little guy has plenty more curiosity about the world to satisfy. But Blue Dragon is in close touch with him and his family and we’re helping them sort out their problems.
Duy doesn’t have a birth certificate – so we’re working on that. He’ll need it to go back to school or get training and a job when he’s older.
And the family needs financial help to buy some farm animals that they can raise. This will help them earn an income and get out of financial difficulty.
Duy and a social worker heading back to the village.
There’s no doubt that Duy has a great future ahead. He’s smart and confident; he wants to do great things in life. And he can!
For now, he just needs some help to be safe while he learns and grows. And his parents need support, too, so they can provide for the whole household.
I’m sure we’ll be seeing Duy again. Hopefully, next time his adventures will be less risky.
Blue Dragon works in Vietnam to keep kids safe from human trafficking and exploitation. Thanks for reading the Life Is A Long Story blog!