Tho was almost 16 when he left home.
He was a good kid, and loved his family dearly. They were poor farmers and wanted him to get an education so that he could have a better life than theirs.
If not for the COVID pandemic, Tho might have stayed at school and followed his dreams. But with no income, and afraid for the future, he knew his family was in trouble.
With his parents’ reluctant blessing, Tho quit school and headed to Hanoi to find work.
The pandemic has affected all of us in one way or another. For those already living day to day, the impact has been the hardest.
Many kids – and adults, too – have been forced to make tough decisions like Tho. When survival is at stake, we sacrifice the future just to get through today.
Like so many young people over the past 18 months, Tho hopped on a bus bound for the big city. He had a phone and some money in his pocket. This wasn’t what he really wanted, but he was proud that he was taking action. He just wanted to help his family.
Blue Dragon met Tho on a highway overpass a few weeks later. His hope and pride were long gone.
After arriving in the city, he was approached at the bus station by some job brokers. By this time, Hanoi was starting to lock down and they knew they had nothing to offer. Instead they decided to trick him into thinking they would help. Before he knew it, he had been beaten badly and robbed of everything but an empty backpack. They even took his phone and his ID card.
He was alone in a strange city without any money or means to call his family.
Tho was fortunate that we met him and could get him back to his family before the strict lockdown began. We’re supporting his family now so that they’re safe and don’t have to take any more risks. Once COVID restrictions lift, we’ll help Tho join a vocational training course and see him through to the end.
Growing up in an impoverished family shouldn’t mean that any child is destined to live in misery. Tho and his family have a better chance now that they are getting some help, and their future looks much brighter than it did a few months ago.
But we know that there are many more kids like Tho out there, in need of a helping hand. As COVID continues to harm families and communities around the world, it’s up to all of us to come together and protect those whose futures are at stake.