Fish Market Fighter to Award-winning Developer

To meet Tai now, you would never imagine that he had to fight for survival every day of his childhood.

“To achieve what I have now in my life, with a good job, a stable salary, being loved by the people around me and getting recognition from employers, I have worked very hard. I’m proud of it and very happy about my life.”

Fighting for shrimp

Tai grew up with his mother and two siblings in a makeshift floating house at the edge of a river. Desperate to help support his struggling family, Tai spent every evening at the local market grabbing loose shrimp that fell from vendors’ baskets so that his family could sell it.

Collecting shrimp like this is a brutally competitive way to survive. Tai would work the markets from 9pm until after sunrise, hiding from vendors and fighting off other kids for every scrap he could get his hands on. Tripping up or losing concentration for a single second could mean getting beaten to a catch and losing precious income for his family.

Bruised, hungry and sleep-deprived, it took all of Tai’s strength just to show up to school and keep his eyes open.

Tai knew he was capable of more, but for six years he never dared to dream of anything other than surviving the next day. Then Blue Dragon stepped in to help cover the school fees for Tai, his sister Hien and their older brother.

Finally able to concentrate on his studies, Tai flourished.

“When Blue Dragon supported me, I didn’t have to work at night anymore. Instead, I could go to school feeling healthy and relaxed.”

A springboard

At Blue Dragon, Tai threw himself into a variety of activities that he had never had the chance to experience before — hip hop, piano, leadership workshops — but it was a career orientation session on computer coding that planted the seeds of Tai’s future passion.

Already having a keen eye for professional development, Tai recognised that learning English would dramatically improve his career opportunities. He not only practised as much as possible with the volunteer teachers at Blue Dragon, but got a job in a cafe where he would have the chance to speak English with the customers. Then, in 2018, he received a full scholarship to study English for a year at Langports Language College in Australia.

Before long, Tai became popular among staff and students alike. Just like at Blue Dragon, he tried his hand at all kinds of challenges from dance choreography to table tennis. His confidence grew with each new accomplishment, and he flew back to Vietnam with a renewed sense of ambition.

Unfinished business

Tai’s growth in confidence gave him the aura of a changed person when he returned to Vietnam. His self-belief had grown along with his English ability, and he was ready to test himself in new ways.

When the COVID-19 lockdown hit, Tai refused to let it stop him. He seized the opportunity to begin studying a field he’d first been introduced to all that time ago at Blue Dragon: coding.

Blue Dragon continued to support Tai, providing a stable environment with regular career counselling to help him forge his own path. In 2021, Tai began a paid internship as a developer.

Tai’s nights fighting for survival at the fish market had sharpened his competitive instincts. He may no longer be scrapping for loose shrimp, but he will always fight to be the best at what he does. In this case, that meant pushing both himself and the company in new and exciting directions. He studied relentlessly, improving his coding skills and moving up through the professional ranks.

Tai now leads his own projects with international clients from Europe to Singapore and Malaysia. He recently received a Talent Developer award at his company’s Global Choice event 2023. His colleagues are constantly stunned that this positive, driven young man ever faced the hardships he has had to endure.

“Try hard while you still can”

As a child living in a floating house and dragging himself to school on an empty stomach, Tai never even entertained the idea that one day he would find the sense of stability he now enjoys.

“10 years ago I would never have dared to dream of a life with a stable job and a good salary like I have now. I feel good because I never gave up.”

Tai may have found his place in the world, but he hasn’t lost the drive that got him there. He never wanted or needed anybody to do his work for him, just a springboard from which he could work hard for his own future.

Unsurprisingly, Tai’s advice to younger people like him is filled with the sense of self-empowerment that was drilled into him every time he claimed a loose shrimp back at the market: “Try hard while you still can. Your starting point may not be as good as other kids, but use it as motivation to try even harder.”

If anybody ever backed up their words with their actions, it’s Tai.

Empowerment, not dependency

Tai epitomises Blue Dragon’s values of “Empowerment, not dependency.”

Over the past twenty years of helping kids like Tai, Blue Dragon has seen time again what people are capable of when they have the chance to show it.

Kids like Tai deserve to fight for more than just loose shrimp. They deserve to fight for something they believe in.

20 years down. Many more to come!

Join us in celebrating Blue Dragon’s 20th birthday and play your part in changing lives for many years to come.

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