Monday, December 24, 2007

And so, this is Christmas?

It's Christmas! And the celebrations are everywhere throughout Hanoi.

But a teenage boy in Hue has reminded me that not everyone is enjoying the festive season...

Chau is 17 years old and from a very poor family; they consider themselves lucky to have a tin house built on sand by the beach where Chau's father earns a pittance as a fisherman.

Two years ago, Chau was trafficked to Ho Chi Minh City to work in a garment factory. He's not alone - countless kids are trafficked for such work every year. None of the big NGOs or UN agencies are interested in solving this problem, because it's women being trafficked for sex that brings them the big donor money. Kids like Chau don't get any attention or any support at all, from anyone.

In his first year in the little factory (which is run by a family rather than a corporation), Chau earned 2 million dong. That's $125 US for 12 months work. Chau, like all the thousands of others in the same predicament, worked 7 days a week, from 7am to midnight - or longer, if there was a big order.

In his second year, Chau's pay was doubled! $250 for an entire year! If he could just keep working for another 500 years, he'd be rich.

But a few weeks ago, Chau fell suddenly ill. His glands around his throat started to swell. He started to vomit. He couldn't keep up at work.

So the boss sent him home - back to the village with you, kid.

A Blue Dragon staff member happened to be in Chau's village last week, and by chance heard about this. So he went to see Chau, who was in agony and could hardly move. His parents were desperate to help, but so poor that they can't afford to see a doctor. All they could do was ask the local fortune teller to come and pray over him.

Our staff took Chau straight to Hue hospital, about 40kms from the village. A series of tests came back with the diagnosis: cancer. And without immediate medical intervention, Chau was facing a slow and agonising death.

I'm still not totally satisfied with the diagnosis; there's too much that I don't understand, mostly because of language barriers. But the doctors have started treatment and are taking good care of Chau. We have a volunteer who lives in Hue visiting Chau and his family twice a day and sending us reports, and after Christmas an American doctor who lives in Hoi An will visit Chau to help us get an accurate picture of his condition. (Not that there's anything wrong with the local doctors - just that the translation is too difficult).

The family business that has exploited Chau for the last 2 years don't plan to contribute anything. We'll see about that. But our focus now must stay on Chau's treatment. I just hope we are not too late to help this boy.

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