He didn’t appear to be homeless.
Khoa was a tiny boy; 12 years old but small for his age. He was sitting in a park playing alone, seemingly very happy.
But deep down, Khoa was terrified.
He came from a village outside Hanoi, where he grew up with his mother. A few months ago, she had travelled away from home to find work in the city.
There were simply no jobs at home. It saddened her to leave her son with her own parents, but she needed to find a way to earn some money.
Missing his mother, Khoa had an idea. He would go the city himself and surprise her! Then they could be together once more, without the pain of separation.
Khoa had no idea just how big the city would be. Nor that finding his mother would be impossible.
And so he came to live alone in one of the city’s many parks. He had brought a bundle of clothes with him, which he hid up a tree so that nobody would find them.
In the day, Khoa begged and collected scrap to survive. At night he slept in the park, sometimes up in the tree branches to avoid being robbed or abused. He wondered if he would ever see his mother again.
It was at this time that a Blue Dragon social worker spotted Khoa and offered help. He was reluctant at first: the offer of shelter and food sounded too good to be true. But after some days of meeting and getting to know each other, Khoa decided to give Blue Dragon a go.
Finding Khoa in the park represented an interesting challenge for Blue Dragon. He came to the city to see his mother, but had no idea as to where she might be.
How could we possibly find her?
We made the journey back to their village to meet Khoa’s grandmother. We learned that Khoa’s mother was desperately worried that her son was missing and was searching everywhere for him. But now we had enough information to find her in Hanoi.
Mother and son were absolutely delighted to be reunited- and clearly didn’t want to be separated again.
So Khoa moved in to his mother’s rented room in Hanoi. Then we enrolled him in a school nearby so that they could live together: his mother went to work in the day and, with some financial assistance, Khoa went to school.
The long haul
First we had brought Khoa to safety, away from sleeping in the park.
Once he was out of danger, we reunited him with his mother.
And with their little family back together, we helped them both to improve their circumstances: a better place to live; education; and support for daily essentials.
But Blue Dragon’s work didn’t end there.
Over the following years, we supported Khoa through his schooling. This involved more than just paying the school fees. At times he needed counselling; he and his mother would sometimes have disagreements and the two of them together needed help to iron things out.
Along the way were many extra-curricular classes at the Blue Dragon centre, too, including a course in playing the ukelele, which Khoa loved!
When Khoa finished high school and expressed an interest in university, we could see his potential to thrive and with thanks to a kind sponsor Khoa continued his education at the tertiary level.
In August, Khoa graduated with a degree in Advertising and Public Relations. He’s a very tall young man now, carrying himself with confidence and optimism.
Nobody who meets him would guess that he was once a scared little boy living in a park and begging to survive.
And that’s the power of hope. All Khoa needed was someone to give him a chance – to help him when he was alone and offer a hand.
His transformation from a street kid to a university graduate is a reminder that within each of us is the potential to overcome, to shine, and to inspire others.
It’s been a long journey and I’m sure Khoa’s story isn’t over yet.
Khoa was homeless in a park in the centre of Hanoi. On September 10, Blue Dragon’s team of Street Outreach workers – including the social worker who first met Khoa – will take part in the Blue Dragon Marathon Walk in that very same park. You can sponsor them here, with all money going to help the children of Vietnam.