Early on Wednesday morning, January 18 2017, Nguyen Tong Tu lost his life in a motorbike accident on the cold dark streets of Hanoi.
Tu was 15 years old. His life was scarred by accident, family breakdown, and angst. But here at Blue Dragon, he was known as a wonderful boy with an angelic face that lit up with joy when he was loved.
Tu was only with us a short time; he first came to Blue Dragon in May through our Outreach team, who met him on the streets of the city. His relationship with his family was strained by poverty and hardship; he didn’t know where he belonged and his survival instincts drove him to be far more independent than a 15 year old should ever have to be.
His funeral yesterday was hard for everyone. The funeral room was packed with girls and boys from Blue Dragon, all of whom are devastated to lose their friend. Our staff, too, are in shock. At times the only thing that has kept us going is that the children need us to carry them through. Tu was one of the family.
Over the years we have faced several tragedies like this, losing people we care deeply for. Just last year, one of our girls drowned and another boy passed away in a traffic accident. One of our great friends here in Hanoi, Glenn, died of a sudden illness mid year. Life can be horrible and unfair and at times the pain seems just so meaningless.
However, what I have seen in the past 2 days isn’t only pain and sorrow. There has also been incredible beauty in the compassion the kids have shown to each other, and the care that my team has shared with the children. This doesn’t dull the harshness of our loss, but it makes it possible to cope and keep believing that there is hope in life.
Just last week, at the Blue Dragon Tet Awards celebration, one of our boys stood on the stage and spoke about belief. I promised in my Sunday blog to share what he had said; today those words are more poignant than ever. Below is the translation of his speech; for privacy I have left out his name but this is from the mouth of one of our 17 year old boys.
Hi everyone. I have been at Blue Dragon for 4 years. I am a student. Today, I bring you an indispensable spice of life, and it’s “Belief”.
Belief is an important value to me but is something hard to explain. To me, it means we trust ourselves, trust in others or believe in a better future. Without belief, we will be unable to reach our dreams.
In the past I lost all belief in my life.
I was born in a poor family in Nam Dinh province. There are 6 people in my family: my parents, my 3 siblings and I. My dad had brain disease, and I had impairment on my leg. Neighbors thought we did bad things in a past life so we were poor and had disability. Things did not stop there, they blamed us every time they lost something. So I lost faith in them.
I was also bullied by other kids many times, but no one protected me, even if I did not do anything wrong. This gave me the strong idea in my mind that “violence can change everything”. I started to fight with people, which made my parents upset. My friends and people in my community started staying away from me.
Due to discrimination from my friends and my family’s situation, at the age of 13 I left my home to earn money. I did a lot of different work like shoeshine and working in food stalls, etc. But I never got paid after all my hard work. With the shoeshining job, people competed and used violence to get customers. I quit working and continued wandering around. I totally lost belief in my future.
After wandering and living on the street for a while, I met a Blue Dragon staff. I did not trust what they were doing at the beginning. But the patience, love, and respect from them have changed me. I went back to school and integrated with new friends there. I found love and respect from my family and neighbors. Blue Dragon helped me to change my point of view about life. Life is still beautiful.
Through my story, I want you to tell you that we can do everything if we have belief.
Read more of Michael’s blog here.