Tuesday, February 17, 2009

All rise

One heartbreaking part of my work at Blue Dragon is being able to foresee the 'destiny' of individual children, but not being able to do anything about it.

It's heartbreaking, because I can often see where the kids are headed, but nothing I say or do can get them off the path they are on. These are the kids who are constantly on the edge, pushing the boundaries, running risks - and most times, their families are already in prison, or living with addictions. It doesn't take a fortune teller to predict where these kids are likely to end up.

But on some occasions, I have seen kids change track and surprise everyone. On how many occasions? Well, enough to make me keep working here.

This morning I attended the district court along with one of our teenage boys, who has been charged with stealing a badge from a car.

Tu - not his real name, of course - has been a part of Blue Dragon for almost 3 years. His life story is one of the more fascinating: he's lived in Ho Chi Minh City, he spent over a year working in China, and when I first met him he was surviving by collecting scrap on the streets of Hanoi. There's a lot more to his story, and many details I still don't know about.

He was about 14 years old then, and he's about 17 now - but these are just rough guesses as he has no birth certificate. Tu's family never bothered to mark his birth date. After his parents divorced, he was passed around from family member to family member, and often left to fend for himself.

Tu is a quiet kid, and very bright: when he puts his mind to it, he can easily come top of his class. He says little, and even at Blue Dragon many staff and kids find him something of an enigma.

Tu was arrested in November last year, having ripped the badge off a brand new Ford. Apparently these badges can be resold for a lot of money: lots of street kids in Hanoi fund themselves through this badge theft. The owner of the car, although furious at first, has forgiven Tu and shown considerable empathy toward him. The police, too, were quite compassionate when they learnt Tu's story and realised that he has no family they could call on.

In short, Tu is a good kid in a bad situation. And today he went to court.

There was a lot of information for the court to take into consideration: since his arrest, Tu has been working part time in the Blue Dragon kitchen, as well as going to school, and his behaviour has been excellent. The fact that the victim of the crime forgave him also went in his favour.

At the conclusion of the hearing, Tu was handed a suspended sentence. He's not going to prison (which was a potential outcome) but he has a second chance to get things right.

Based on how he's been going over the past few months, there's every indication that Tu will use this second chance. He's hugely relieved to not have a harsher sentence, and he already has plans to keep on studying and working. Tu knows how fortunate he is to have this chance.

I've known Tu for a few years now, and I've always believed that he would make something of himself, although at times I've been a minority in holding that view. Today I see in him a young man on the rise: he's determined to change his circumstances and make something of his life.

And I really, truly, believe that he will do it.


1 comment:

Robin Brodeur said...

Michael, please let "Tu" know that I will be thinking of him, hoping he has the fortitude to continue moving forward. Half a world away, I'll be waiting for your updates. He may not have family, but he does have people that care.