In more normal times, Thang spends his days on the streets.
Thang is only ten… or maybe nine. He’s not really sure. He’s never been to school, so he follows his mother around the city while she works, collecting scrap that she sells for recycling.
Even though he has never studied or sat in a classroom, Thang is a bright boy and has taught himself enough to read comic books. He doesn’t have many friends – when you wander the streets all day, it’s hard to have friendships. But he knows what he is missing out on and dreams about being like all the other kids he sees.
Right now, Vietnam is experiencing a wave of COVID unlike any other we’ve seen. Across the country, cities and provinces are in lockdown; businesses are closed and people have been asked or ordered to stay home.
Thang and his mother don’t really have that option. Staying home means staying hungry. They live day to day, with no savings. If they don’t earn money today, they have to move out of their rented room tomorrow. It’s as simple as that.
And Thang isn’t the only child living like this. Across Hanoi and throughout Vietnam, many girls and boys are spending their early years like this. Too poor to go to school, and with no extended family to care for them, they roam the streets every day with a parent or relative.
Now that COVID has upended all of our daily routines, their lives are impossibly difficult.
So now Thang has a new routine. He spends his days at the Blue Dragon centre, along with a growing group of girls and boys who, just like him, would otherwise be out on the streets or locked into tiny, makeshift homes.
It’s a whole new world for Thang and his peers. Being in a centre, having healthy meals at fixed times and playing together as a group are all new experiences.
Even more important, Thang is now learning. He has formal lessons in the afternoons, but in fact his whole day now is about learning. How to make friends. How to be nice to others. How to sit down for lunch and share a meal.
Turning Thang’s life around will take time. We’re working with his mother, to see how we can help her find a more stable income. And of course through this latest lockdown period we are helping her to pay the bills so she can get by.
It’s not easy for Thang or his mother, but finally they have someone to help.
Thang is so excited, and so growing in his new confidence, that this week he arrived at Blue Dragon as the alter-ego of Spider Man.
His own day to day life is far from that of a super hero, free to go anywhere and with power to command respect.
Thang hasn’t had the best start to life, but he still dreams like children all around the world.
Maybe he won’t really be able to become Spider Man when he grows up, but with some love and care, and a helping hand for his mother, there’s no doubt that his dream of a brighter future can still come true.
To help Thang and children just like him, please consider a donation to the Blue Dragon COVID Emergency appeal. All funds raised will provide food packs to families who have no income during the current lockdown.