Son is a Street Outreach Worker for Blue Dragon.
When he was a child, he was a street kid himself. Blue Dragon’s Street Outreach team helped Son get off the streets and find a new path. Now he works full time in that same team that changed his life. It’s his way of giving back, and he’s great at it.
Most of the kids he meets are homeless. Many have come to Hanoi from the mountains in search of a job and instead find themselves destitute on the city streets.
But some of the kids he meets do have jobs. They might be working in factories or in restaurants. Out of work hours they gather in a park or by the side of the road where they eat, play and watch the world go by.
There’s one group of kids Son meets regularly. They’re from a province of southern Vietnam and migrated north to work in a factory. The kids are all boys, all young teens, and all from an ethnic minority community. Sometimes Son has difficulty talking with them because their mother tongue is a language different to his.
Far from their home in a remote village, where the food and culture are familiar and they have family to care for them, the boys feel like outsiders. Their skin is dark and their facial features look different to those of most Hanoians. They sense very strongly that they do not belong.
So Son makes a point of going to see them whenever he can. He wants to build trust with them; wants them to share with him their struggles and their dreams. Eventually he hopes he can help them return to their village where they will be much safer and find jobs closer to home. These kids don’t know him well enough yet, so despite his many efforts they remain guarded. But slowly they are opening up.
Recently, one of the boys told Son how much they miss music. Several of them play the guitar and they love to sing… but of course, the factory where they work and live has no guitar.
And so Son set out to find one. The Blue Dragon centre had an old guitar that nobody was using, so he took it for the factory kids and delivered it to them on Sunday night.
They were gathered on some grass by the road, where nobody bothers them, smoking cigarettes and eating rice. Son’s arrival – with a guitar! – was a cause of great excitement.
What brought such joy to the boys wasn’t just the guitar. It wasn’t just the chance to sing some songs from home and to be totally distracted from the hardships of life.
It was that Son cared so much for them that he listened to them, went in search of something that they wanted – something valuable! – and gave them, as their own possession, an instrument of real happiness.
They sat by the road playing and singing, ignoring the cold. Son eventually had to leave them, to carry on his nightly job of looking for homeless kids. But he left them with such smiles and pleasure.
Tonight, they have a reason to believe that life can be something better.
Thanks for being part of the Life Is A Long Story blog. It’s great to be back and I look forward to sharing more stories.