Plus One

Two weeks ago, I told the story of 17 year old Thoan, the Hero of Zero.

He’s a wonderful kid who has faced so many challenges in life that eventually he simply gave up. After running away from home, Thoan spent his days playing computer games in one of Hanoi’s countless internet cafes, and his nights selling sex just so he could survive the next day.

Even after learning he was infected with HIV, Thoan continued hooking up with men who would abuse him for as little as $1.50 for a few hours of sex.

At the time of writing, there was no immediate prospect of Thoan accepting Blue Dragon’s help and coming in off the streets. He saw no reason to hope for anything better.

And then, last week, something unexpected happened.

Thoan turned up at Dragon House, our drop-in centre near Hanoi’s Red River.

He has long known the Blue Dragon social workers, who meet him on the streets or in the internet cafes. He’s known where to find us, and he’s always known that he’s welcome any time. But only last week did he call and say he wanted to see us.

And so Thoan spent 3 days sitting alone in Dragon House. There were plenty of people around, both kids and staff, but he didn’t want to talk or interact. He just wanted to sit and think.

He would smile when approached and chat when someone started a conversation; and then he would return to staring at his toes, sharing nothing and wanting nothing.

On the weekend, while staying in one of Blue Dragon’s crisis shelters, he spoke up.

Thoan wanted to go home.

This morning some staff traveled with Thoan out of the city to see his family. We’ve met them before, and they dearly love their son, but the chance of a successful reunion has always seemed incredibly low. Until now.

Today, Thoan was very clear. He was ready to be home. He wants to study a training course so he can get a proper job. He doesn’t want to be on the streets any more and he doesn’t want to sell himself to people who only want to exploit him. He’s done with that.

Sometimes we have plans and goals and milestones to measure our progress. And sometimes life happens just whenever it’s ready. Today was one of those times. Thoan was simply ready. He no longer wants to be the Hero of Zero; he wants to make something of his life.

So is this it? Happily ever after?

I’d love to wrap up this story with a bow, but this isn’t the end of the story. Today has finished on a wonderful high, but anything can happen tomorrow. The wheels may yet fall off.

However, Thoan has taken a step. From all our years of working with Vietnamese kids in crisis, I know that once this step is taken, there will be more to come. Even if it all falls apart tomorrow, Thoan will start again the next day. It may be a smooth ride from here, or it may not. Ultimately it doesn’t matter.

For all of us, life is a long story. For Thoan, his story has just opened a new chapter full of hope.


Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation rescues kids in crisis.


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