Sunday, June 17, 2007

Hieu and Thao’s comeback

In December 2005, Blue Dragon was building a house for a family in Bac Ninh province. The younger son, Hieu (then aged 14), was supported through our sponsorship program to attend school. Thao, then aged 16, had quit school at Grade 4 to support his chronically ill mother, Mrs Tat. Their house was in such bad condition that it urgently needed to be rebuilt.

On December 27, just weeks after the new building had been started, Mrs Tat died in her old home.

Thao and Hieu had little choice but to be brave and strong. They did a great job of it, too. In the following days, all sorts of relatives turned up to look at their land and their new house under construction, and to drop very blunt hints that the boys should repay a debt of gratitude by handing over the house, or some land. My staff and I were shocked by the outrageous display of greed, and we sent our lawyer in to make sure that Thao and Hieu didn’t lose any of their inheritance. Even their father, who hadn’t been around for 10 years, put in appearance and started talking about taking over the house.

The house was finally finished, with some help from Aussie school students and some of Thao and Hieu’s own friends. Blue Dragon started supporting the boys with extra money for rice and clothing, and Thao went looking for seasonal jobs. Things were looking bleak. None of us knew how these teenagers could possibly get through.

It’s now about 18 months since Mrs Tat died. And despite all the hardships, things are looking up for her sons.

Hieu has just passed his Grade 9 exams, and will enter Grade 10 in September. For a child in his situation, it’s very rare to carry on at school.

Thao has finally landed on his feet. Thanks to our volunteer mechanic Andrew, Thao has picked up a traineeship as a welder in a foreign-owned company in Hanoi. Up until recently, he’s been going home to the countryside every second weekend to see his little brother – but he hasn’t been going more frequently because the bus trip takes too long, and he gets travel sickness.

But this week, a teacher living in Hanoi named Andrea donated her motorbike to Thao; Andrea is leaving Vietnam soon, and wanted her bike to go to a good cause. Now that he has a bike, Thao can return home every weekend, as the trip will only take about 45 minutes.

You can never tell what will happen next in life. And of course, Thao and Hieu’s story is far from over. But it’s great to see them doing so well now, and making the most of the opportunities that they have.

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