In the evening, Vi finishes eating dinner with his family and says goodbye before putting on his mask and heading out to the streets.
Vi works for Blue Dragon, leading a team of over 30 social workers who help street kids. Despite being in a formal management position, he insists on staying involved in frontline work.
Every day he’s at the drop-in centre with kids and at night he’s in parks and under bridges looking for homeless young people. He will never admit it, but he’s a hero to many of the kids.
For Vi, this work is very personal. Because as a teenager, Vi was a street kid himself.
He left his village home in 2002, taking a bus to Hanoi where he found work shining shoes on the streets. All day he would walk through the city, polishing people’s shoes in return for a few cents before heading back to a dorm room where he slept, crammed in with 20 other people who also worked on the streets.
Vi at a game of football with Blue Dragon in 2003.
It was a lucky break for Vi to encounter the founder of Blue Dragon one day while out shining shoes. He immediately accepted an offer to join an English class, and before long Vi was living in a group home, going to school, and had left his days as a street kid behind.
Some people who escape a difficult situation – like being a street kid – would be happy to never look back. After his studies, Vi found work in one of Hanoi’s top restaurants and became a stellar barman. He had a great career in hospitality to look forward to.
Vi loved his work, but had a yearning to give back. So he returned to Blue Dragon, and for 10 years has been protecting girls and boys on the streets of the city.
Vi at the Blue Dragon drop-in centre in July 2021, teaching a child to play ping pong.
And now the city is in a state of crisis. With a wave of COVID-19 leading to lockdowns around Vietnam, people in poverty and living on the streets have it harder than ever. So Vi and his team have stepped up to the challenge.
Since Hanoi called for people to stay home and for non-essential services to close, Vi and his social workers have been delivering food during the day to families without incomes and handing meals directly to homeless people through the night.
As they go from home to home and person to person, they’re checking on people’s health and seeing what else they need. Some families need help to pay the rent so they don’t get evicted. Others need medication. One mother with a newborn needed a fridge – so Vi went to the Blue Dragon centre and took the fridge from the office!
Now Vi is planning another challenge. He’ll be walking on September 19 as part of the Blue Dragon Marathon Walk to raise money for the very kids he works with each day.
If you’d like to be involved, you can sign up and walk wherever you are in the world: bd-marathon-2021.raisely.com.
Or, if walking a full or half marathon is not your thing, you can sponsor Vi to show him your support: bd-marathon-2021.raisely.com/vido.
Vi has even declared that he’ll walk an extra 30km if he reaches his fundraising target.
For Vi, his work may be a very personal mission but he’s not alone. His dedication to the kids is shared by many, from the staff on his team to Blue Dragon’s donors near and far who keep us going.
And as long as there are kids out on the streets in need of help, our world will need people like Vi to keep them safe.