Friday, March 14, 2008

The Oreo Kid

It's been a few months since Blue Dragon has met runaways in Hanoi - perhaps because of the extremely cold winter, the kids have preferred to stay at home! But now that the weather is warming up, we've come across three in a week. Two have been 'repeat runaways' - we've worked with them before - but one was new to us. Well, sort of.

In fact, some of our staff and vols had come across the little guy before. His name is Phuong, and despite his size he's 14 years old. (He's the tallest boy in the photo below). Just by chance, I ran into him on the street in the Old Quarter of Hanoi on Sunday; we'd met each other before (though neither of us is exactly clear when or why) so I took him back to the Centre to meet the social workers. Andrew, one of our Australian vols, had seen Phuong on the streets some months before, and it was an interesting story.

Andrew had told me about the encounter the day after they met, but then he didn't see Phuong again so couldn't bring him in to Blue Dragon. Phuong was shining shoes for backpackers, but his service was so good that he not only polished and cleaned; he also gave a bonus Oreo biscuit to his customers, delivered on a napkin. Service like that is unheard of!
Despite his entrepeneurial flair, Phuong has been doing it rough - real rough. So on Tuesday, our lawyer Van took him home to his family. Phuong is from a remote ethnic minority village; Van and the driver left at one thirty in the afternoon and got back to Hanoi 11 hours later.
The village was thrilled to see Phuong back. Neighbours flocked to see him; they couldn't believe their eyes. He'd been gone for over 6 months; he ran away after a dispute with his teacher at school. But all the villagers recognised that he's the brightest kid in their area; and there's no doubt, this kid has something very special about him.
Phuong is happily back with his parents now, and hopefully he'll feel comfortable to stay there. His family isn't too poor, but we do plan to keep sending him some books and games that will help keep him intellectually stimulated. This is one little boy with a bright future, but he needs to get back to school!

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