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.