Saturday, March 06, 2010

An unusual rescue

While I am on the road, I'm still keeping in close touch with the staff back in Vietnam - especially about a particular case that has been developing for some time now, but which came to a head on Wednesday.

One of the boys who used to live at Blue Dragon - let's call him Thanh - had been making an effort to fix his relationship with his family, who live a few hundred kilometers from Hanoi. Before Thanh was with us, his mother had been making him work as a shoeshine boy in a provincial city so that she could live a life of leisure at home. Thanh wanted to go to school, so he hit the road and ended up living on the streets of Hanoi, until we came across him.

His family knew that he was with us, and we even made an attempt at reuniting them - but the mother was never going to let her son, then 14, go to school, and he was adamant that he didn't want to be working on the streets.

So until a few months back, Thanh was living with us and going to school. He made the occasional trip back to see his mother and his younger siblings, who he cares for very much, and things seemed to be getting better.

But then we received a phone call: Thanh would not be coming back. He had decided, we were told, to stay with his mother and go to work for a company. Our staff traveled out to visit him and talk to his mother, but on arriving at the home we found that they were gone. Different neighbours had different stories, and we had no way of knowing for sure where Thanh or his mother were, or what they were doing.

About a week ago, Thanh was finally able to tell us where he was, and ask for our help. He was in the far south of Vietnam, selling heroin. His mother or uncle (I'm not yet sure who) is an addict, and to feed their habit they needed him to be selling. Kids are sometimes forced to sell drugs, as they look less suspicious and are likely to receive less severe punishments if caught. So Thanh's situation was now far worse than prior to meeting Blue Dragon, and he was pleading for our help to escape.

One of our staff traveled to the countryside outside of Ho Chi Minh City to find Thanh, not sure of how to help (without breaking the law!) but determined to find a solution. It was a tricky situation: we have no right or legal authority to help a 15 year old run away from his family, and we could be in an awful lot of trouble for doing so. But then again, we've dealt with more complex problems, so it was worth a try.

Ultimately we have been able to help Thanh come back to Blue Dragon, with the family's knowledge and consent - if not their blessing! Thanh is glad to be back, but now has a long journey ahead dealing with the trauma of what's just happened, and working out what to do from here. He wants to study, but also knows that he alone can help his younger siblings avoid the same fate that has so far befallen him.

The escape is over, but much remains to be done.



Terynn said...

Poor kid. Just think of all the teens, here in America, who do not value their free education. Makes me so sad.

Glad that you were able to broker a deal for Thanh. I pray for his ultimate success in life!

Ecardcelebrate said...

Poor kid. what is happening there? Aussie! Aussie!