Bac just wanted to find a job.
Ever since his father died, life had been hard. Really hard.
His mother struggled to feed Bac and his little sister. Every day seemed miserable.
So when he heard some neighbors talking about all the great job opportunities in Hanoi, 150km to the north, Bac started dreaming that life could be different.
Even though he was only 14, Bac thought that he could help his mother by dropping out of school and getting a job. She would only have to look after his sister and he could send home some of the money he earned in the city.
Finally he decided to do it. With just 2000 dong in his pocket – barely a few cents – he set out to follow his dream.
At first his journey felt like an adventure. When Bac reached the city several days later, all he could see was possibility. He met some street kids who helped set him up with his first shoeshine box and then he walked the pavements, cleaning and polishing the shoes of strangers.
It took about a week for the excitement to wear off and for the hunger and isolation to set in. Sleeping in parks, running away from angry shop owners who saw street kids as a nuisance, and dodging the police wasn’t the life that he wanted.
A change of fortunes
That’s when I met Bac.
Blue Dragon was still in its infancy. It was July 2004, and there was a handful of us volunteering our time to help street kids. It was the weekend and I was sitting at a cafe in Hanoi’s Old Quarter when Bac went by. I called him over and offered him a drink.
Bac’s life changed from that moment. Not just because he had someone to help him, but because he finally had a way to realise his potential.
One of our volunteers took Bac back to his mother’s home in the countryside. (That volunteer, Van, is now Blue Dragon’s lawyer, rescuing victims of human trafficking and representing them in court).
Once he was home, we supported Bac’s mother so that she could keep her son and daughter in school. Bac showed tremendous potential and finished Grade 12 with outstanding results.
Thanks to some wonderful friends, Bruce and Joanne, Bac received a scholarship to study IT at college… and then another friend, Isaac, sponsored him to go to New Zealand for further studies there.
It’s nearly 20 years since that day I met Bac at the cafe. He’s now settled in New Zealand, happily married and working in a great IT job.
His journey started on a summer’s day in 2004 when he decided to walk to the city in the hope of a better future. He could never have guessed it would take him through higher education and all the way to another country.
An old story?
After all these years, telling Bac’s story isn’t just a trip down memory lane.
His story has an almost fairytale-ending. Little boy lost makes it in the big world; a rags to riches (well, metaphorically) tale.
But the story isn’t over, because there’s a new ‘Bac’ every day.
Blue Dragon has outreach workers on the streets of Hanoi day and night looking for children who need a helping hand. Last week, we met 5 children who are new to the streets. The youngest is aged just 6 and the oldest is 15.
Why are they coming to the city? For exactly the same reasons as Bac. Desperate for opportunity. In need of support. Hoping for a chance to turn their lives around.
Like Bac, some have the potential to go on to higher studies, earn scholarships and pursue professional careers. Others might be destined for vocational courses, or for staying in their hometown and raising a family. They certainly don’t need to live and work abroad to be considered a ‘success story.’
But every one of the children we meet can be so much more than a street kid trying to survive. Every one of them deserves a chance to live in safety, to receive an education and to be masters of their own future.
Every one deserves the chance to have their own fairytale ending.
Thank you for reading! Life is a long story and we all have our part to play. Right now Blue Dragon is asking for donations to our emergency appeal to help young people just like Bac. If you would like to help with a gift of any amount, you can donate here.