Something better

Two teens left their homes wanting to escape poverty and hardship. The dangers that they encountered are a warning to us all.

Troc was sleeping under a bridge when we first met him. He was 14 years old.

During our nightly street outreach, the Blue Dragon social workers spotted him covered in a filthy blanket, sound asleep and all on his own.

Troc had come to the city to find a job. His family live about 120km from Hanoi and relied on the income of Troc’s father, a construction worker. When the COVID pandemic first hit Vietnam, his father lost his job and returned home. The family was broke.

Wanting to do something good, Troc slipped away at night and hitchhiked to the city. He was sure that he could find a job and send money home to his family, but soon realised how wrong he had been.

The city was shut down. The streets were empty and the businesses closed. Ashamed to call his parents and tell them the truth, Troc found himself homeless and hungry.

Asleep on the pylon of a bridge in Hanoi.

Nu’s story is not all that different, but her journey was even more frightening. From the mountains of north-central Vietnam, a stone’s throw from Laos, she was almost 16 when the pandemic hit.

Nu had been counting the days until she was old enough to leave home and get a job. Her family was desperately poor and she knew that if she stayed in her village she would soon be married to one of the local boys – a fate she simply did not want.

COVID-19 meant that just as she was able to start planning to leave, she had to put everything on hold. So she waited.

A year into the pandemic, Nu was feeling trapped. She spent her days online, chatting with people far and wide. One young woman she met through social media was particularly friendly. She even offered to introduce Nu to a restaurant in Ha Long Bay that was hiring. Finally, a lucky break!

But as happens so often, Nu’s friend was in fact a trafficker. Nu travelled to the nearest city where they met in a cafe and then hopped on a bus. They were on the road for so long that Nu eventually fell asleep, despite her excitement. When she awoke, she sensed that something was wrong.

Instead of heading to Ha Long Bay, they were high up in the mountains near China. Still, Nu held out hope that everything would be OK – but when they got off the bus late at night and started walking through the forest, she knew she was in trouble.

Both Troc and Nu took risks, and both ended up in dangerous situations.

It’s easy to judge young people for getting into trouble, and it happens all the time. People often assume that girls who get trafficked must have been asking for it. If only they had been more ‘aware’ it wouldn’t have happened.

And the same goes for street kids, who are just assumed to be troublemakers. All they need to do is go home and the streets would be safer.

Troc and Nu were setting out in search of the same dream: something better.

In fact, we all do it. For most of us, it’s about leaving home to start at university or a new job in another city. Or it might mean traveling to a new state – or, in COVID-free times, a new country.

For kids like Troc and Nu, their dream of something better isn’t about adventure or a new challenge. It’s about survival. They don’t want to live – or die – in poverty. They want to change their circumstances, help their families, find a way out of hardship.

They’re both safe now. Troc came to Blue Dragon’s emergency shelter for a few weeks, and once the pandemic eased we took him back to his family. We’ve been supporting them since then and Troc returned to school to finish Grade 9.

Nu was rescued shortly after arriving in China. Her trafficker escaped, but Nu was saved from the trauma of being sold as a bride. She’s now doing a training course and in coming months will be ready to start work in a restaurant as a chef.

Troc and Nu are typical of the young people we meet every day at Blue Dragon: good kids who are trying to escape from some difficulty in life.

In many ways, they’re like all of us. They dream of having a good life, free from hunger and hardship. But their poverty means that they have to take risks that most of us would never face – and that’s where things go wrong for them.

What Troc and Nu want is the same thing that we all should be working towards: something better. For all of us.

Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation rescues kids in crisis.

The boy in the park

Thiem and his father were sleeping rough when Blue Dragon came across them in a park. This week, they disappeared – but our effort to help them did not end.

He was there one day, and gone the next.

Thiem and his father had been sleeping in the park for over a week, despite an incredible heatwave with temperatures of over 40 degrees each day… and also despite Vietnam’s worst outbreak of COVID-19 so far.

Every day, Blue Dragon staff would head down to the park with food and drink, and sometimes games or toys for Thiem. He especially loved the coloring pad and pencils, so that he could bring his 12 year old imagination to life.

Thiem’s father never said a word. He would turn away, appearing to ignore the social workers while staying close enough to hear and see everything.

Thiem in the park, with food and drink and a Blue Dragon card.

But one day they were gone. The park was empty.

People in the area talked about a car coming and taking Thiem away. Someone said that they thought the police were involved. None of the stories added up.

And so we turned to the skills that have made Blue Dragon a leader in finding and rescuing victims of human trafficking: the skills of searching for missing people. Within a day, we found an online forum where Thiem’s relatives had posted about their search for him, and we made contact with an uncle.

Thiem’s backstory is one of sadness and loss.

As a very young boy, his family was happy and his future looked bright. But as he grew up, mental illness took over his father’s life. This prosperous, hardworking family lost everything, and finally Thiem’s mother left for Laos to find work.

Thiem is a bright child. Growing up, he desperately wanted to go to school with his friends. But his father would periodically lapse into clouds of darkness and confusion.

During these times, he would take his son and travel – with no plan, no money, and no destination. The extended family had no idea where they went, and would just have to wait for weeks and months to pass until they returned.

They would live in parks or under bridges, wandering the streets as homeless beggars.

Thiem asleep in the Hanoi park.

For Thiem, this is indescribably difficult. He loves his father and wants to protect him, but he knows their situation is dangerous and they should be back in the countryside.

Their home is a tiny village in north-central Vietnam. People there don’t understand the complexity of mental health issues, and there are no services or agencies they can call on for assistance. They are on their own.

Three weeks ago, Thiem and his father again vanished from their home. Since then, the extended family has been searching. When Thiem disappeared from the park, he had in fact been found by his family.

His father is now in hospital receiving care, and Thiem is with his uncles. Thanks to donations that Blue Dragon supporters have sent, we have funds to help the family through this time and to assist with the next steps for Thiem – whatever they may be.

The future is still unclear and although Thiem is safe, his struggles are far from over. But he is with family, his father is receiving care, and Blue Dragon remains ready to help… whatever comes next.

Thank you to all who donated in response to last week’s story. If you would like to contribute to the care of children like Thiem, a donation of any amount to Blue Dragon’s Rescue Appeal would be greatly appreciated.


A life of hardship and tragedy could not stop Vy from dreaming that she would one day have a family of her own.

Vy has lived a hard life.

She’s always been poor. She has usually been unemployed. And in recent years, she has been homeless.

But there’s something else that she has always wanted to be:

A mother.

Collecting scrap on the streets with her partner, Vy shares the same dream that we all share: a happy future with people she loves. So the first time she fell pregnant, she was delighted and hopeful that brighter days were ahead.

When she lost her baby in a miscarriage, she was devastated. And more than a year later when she was pregnant again, a second miscarriage seemed to spell the end of her dreams.

Blue Dragon met Vy in January when Help Hanoi’s Homeless, an awesome local volunteer association, contacted us. Normally Blue Dragon focuses our attention on people who have been trafficked and street children; supporting homeless pregnant women is a little outside our regular work.

But Vy’s situation was dire. 38 weeks pregnant and living on the streets, she was unsafe and unwell. And the risk of a third miscarriage was just too great.

Working with the volunteers, we rented Vy a room and supplied her with some basic needs to see her through. Seeing the mix of joy and fear in her eyes was heartbreaking. Vy’s final weeks of pregnancy were filled with both hope and dread. She faced every day wanting nothing more than to have the chance to be a mother, and hold her baby in her arms.

This is a story with a happy ending. Vy’s dream has come true. Her baby girl was born safely in hospital. Ha Chi has every chance of leading a healthy, happy life. Vy is over the moon.

Vy’s newborn girl, Ha Chi.

Now that she has a child, Vy doesn’t want to work on the streets any more. We’ve helped her stay stable through these first months while Vy’s partner starts in a regular job and begins earning an income. We’re also helping to get a birth certificate for the baby; Vy is from southern Vietnam, so needs some extra help to make that journey and get the paper work done.

Of course, Vy’s story isn’t over. It isn’t always easy for people who have experienced years of homelessness to return to a more stable life. But this is what Vy wants and has fought for; and more than anything, she wants to give Ha Chi the life that she wishes she had had.

Vy may have been through a lot in life, but she’s going to be a wonderful mother.

Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation rescues kids in crisis.