Friday, March 09, 2007

One at a time

One of my usual boasts is that Blue Dragon's work in Vietnam is unique. Our trademark approch, which differs from everybody else's in the country, is that we do case work: we develop IAPs (Individual Assistance Plans) for each of the kids in our program.

This is very effective, but the downside is that our programs are relatively more expensive than other charities in Vietnam. And with very limited funding, we always face the issue of whether we should reduce the level of support we give each child by moving to a more standard, 'one size fits all', approach.

In short, though, it's not going to happen. The kids we deal with have very different needs. Two cases that we've been working on lately highlight this.

The first is the case of a 13 year old boy who was born in prison, where he spent the first five years of life. He's never been to school, and seemed to be illiterate. He is unable to write anything, even numbers, and he's the first child I've ever met who cannot write his name.

But - and this is a big 'but' - he chats online.

My own training is as an English teacher, and I've sure never come across anything like this before. When you put this boy in front of a computer, he can type away for hours. There's nothing he can't do. It's just that he's never been taught to read and write on paper.

The second case is of a 16 year old runaway boy who we met last week. He was brought to us by another street kid, who saw him sleeping on the street and invited him to our center. It turned out that the boy had run away some time ago - I'm not sure exactly how long, as you'll soon understand - and had just come out of a detention center, so had no money or resources at all.

After getting to know the boy, Blue Dragon staff convinced him to make contact with his family, and he subsequently decided to go home. All pretty usual stuff. One of the staff members joined him for the 4 hour trip home to make sure the reunion went well.

And it did... but (here we go again) there was one obstacle to get through. The mother did not recognise her own son. She was so uncertain that the boy standing on her doorstep was really her son that she demanded to see some identification or proof. Once she was convinced, the tears started to flow - from both mother and son. And my staff helped sort out a few of the problems that had led the young guy to running away in the first place.

One size fits all? I just can't see how it would work. I'd rather spend some more and make sure we get results.

1 comment:

Marcos said...

HOW AMAZING!! Can type and read but not write. Certainly the first case i've read about too. It is much more common to be able to speak and understand a language without being able to read or write it..but type without being able to WRITE...we truly are in the world of computers.