The truth about street kids

Years after coming to Blue Dragon, Long and Giang are leading lives they love. Their success challenges the misconceptions of who street kids really are.

Long and Giang were street kids when I met them.

Both were from provinces near Hanoi and came to the city as teens. They each had loving families at home but were looking for something more: an escape from the hardships of their daily lives.

Their experiences in the city were very different. Giang teamed up with a friend from his hometown and they were on the streets for many months. Long was a street kid for just a short time before he met Blue Dragon. A week later, he was happily home with his parents.

However, calling them “street kids” is a little complicated. It’s a label that summarises a whole set of traumatic childhood experiences, while saying nothing about the person.

Perception and reality

Whenever I speak in public about Blue Dragon’s work, I come across many different views of street kids.

Some people assume that they must be from dysfunctional families; others believe that they’re bad kids who just need some discipline. Of course, some show great sympathy, seeing street kids as victims of family breakdown.

So what’s the truth?

After 20 years of meeting and caring for street kids, I can confidently say this: Street kids are regular young people, no different to anyone else.

I’ve met street kids who are intelligent, ambitious, kind. Some are passionate about sports, or love music, or enjoy hanging out with friends. And yes, I’ve met some who are bad tempered, spend too much time playing online games and get into trouble with the law.

All of which makes them no different to any other teenager.

At the same time, I don’t deny that street kids do have one fundamental difference to others, and that’s their time living without the proper care and protection of a home.

That experience is traumatic for any person. For children who spend time separated from their family – or out on the streets with their family – the trauma of living in danger and poverty can stay with them for a long time. This is why getting help and care to street kids is a matter of urgency. The longer kids are exposed to risk and harm, the harder it will be for them to heal.

The next chapter

Long and Giang have been “street kids,” but their lives are not defined by that experience.

By chance, both Long and Giang – now in their early 20s – caught up with us at Blue Dragon in the past week.

Long (on the left) catching up with Blue Dragon co-CEO Vi Do.

Long has started a small business of his own, designing and installing shop interiors. Giang works in Japan, but was back in Vietnam for his engagement ceremony. He’ll be getting married in a few years, and until then will keep working abroad with his fiance.

Neither has forgotten their time on the streets. Both have worked hard to overcome the challenges of their teen years and make something great of their lives.

Being a “street kid” doesn’t have to be a life-defining experience. Because Long and Giang received the right help at the right time, their days on the streets have become a chapter in their lives – not the whole book.

Every child deserves to be safe and protected. Then, as they grow up, they can be the author of their own story and not be defined by any label.

Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation is on a mission to end human trafficking. Protecting street kids is a vital part of our work.

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