Van is typical of the teens we meet on the streets of Hanoi.
He’s a lovely kid who just wants to have a decent life. He grew up in the mountains with his father and uncles in an old timber house that has just a dirt floor and an open fire for a ‘kitchen’.
Van’s life has always been hard. He barely remembers his mother, who left when he was a toddler. His family lives day to day, hoping that tomorrow they’ll have enough to eat. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t.
It’s not an easy life for a teenager, so Van made the decision to leave.
He wasn’t really sure what to expect; he just imagined that life far from home would be easier. He dreamt that he would find a job and send money home each month to support his father, who would be proud of his only son.
Van’s dream was noble, but reality proved to be harsh.
He traveled down from the mountains by bus and arrived in the city with no plan, no friends, and nothing in his pocket. Despite his sunny optimism that he’d find a way to get by, he was soon homeless and hungry. A scam ‘job broker’ took his ID card and someone stole his mobile phone, leaving him with no way to call home and get help.
Just as Van is like so many of the kids we meet, his story is painfully familiar.
When we met Van, he was sleeping in an abandoned construction site. He was frightened and alone beside an open fire he’s made to keep warm. Although he was wary of strangers, he was desperate for a meal and a safe place to sleep, so he gratefully accepted the offer of shelter with Blue Dragon.
And then, after a few days catching up on food and rest, Van was ready to go home.
As we normally do, some staff traveled back with Van to meet his family and see if they need any help. We do this because otherwise we have no way to know if the kids have gone home to a dangerous situation. And we want the families to know us, so they can call if they need to.
Van’s family is delighted that he’s home, and he was all smiles to be back with his dad.
But clearly, this isn’t the end of the story.
It would be easy to say that we’ve done our job: Van is safely home and no longer living on the city streets.
However, the grinding poverty that caused him to become homeless hasn’t changed. So Blue Dragon’s work isn’t yet finished.
Van’s house is in need of repairs. It’s freezing in winter and the rain pours in during the wet season. They don’t even have a water tank or running water in the house, and no space for a toilet or washroom.
Beyond that urgent need, Van’s family needs some way to earn a stable income. They’d love to raise some goats and pigs as a step to becoming self sufficient.
A proper place to call home and a way to earn money. That’s all they dream of.
We’re working with them now to develop a plan and then we need to find the money to help. Around $2,000 will transform their lives forever.
Van isn’t quite old enough yet, but in a couple of years he will be ready for vocational training and a job. When that time comes, we’ll be here to help.
Getting kids like Van home to the safety of their family is important – but it isn’t always enough.
They need a sound home, certainty that their basic needs are met, and a reason to hope for the future.
Just the same as all of us.