Saturday, November 06, 2010

A moment of pride

I'm starting to sound a bit like an old drum at the moment - constantly banging on about road accidents in Vietnam. But for the last couple of weeks, they've been a recurring theme at Blue Dragon.

Two older teens who have both lived in Blue Dragon's shelters in the past, and have since been living independently, were involved in a pretty awful crash just over a week ago. The details are still unclear but they were riding around Hoan Kiem Lake at midnight, probably racing, and naturally without helmets.

They crashed hard, the rider slamming into a pole and his pillion being thrown into the front wall of somebody's house.

The pillion - who I'll call Nam - has just been released from hospital after a couple of days in intensive care followed by a week in recovery. The rider is still in intensive care, and doctors are not optimistic about his chances of survival.

My feelings about this are terribly mixed. I'm worried, concerned, angry, and sad all at the same time. What were they doing racing the streets? Why weren't they wearing helmets? The rider was in a very serious accident just last year - did he learn nothing?

And yet, I can't forget that these are young guys running wild in a world that cares little for them. Maybe they feel that they have nothing to lose.

I was visiting Nam in hospital early in the week with 3 of the Blue Dragon kids. Nam's uncle was looking after him (in Vietnam, you need a relative to look after you round the clock in hospital) so we made quite a crowd around Nam's hospital bed.

Like me, Uncle was confused and upset by all this. But unlike me, Uncle believes that lecturing Nam is the best way to go; just keep on telling him what he's doing wrong, and he'll certainly improve! The distant, long suffering look in Nam's eyes told me that Uncle had something of a history of lecturing.

At this point, the 3 kids who were with me decided to speak up. Not in a rude way, either: they couldn't be faulted for their politeness. But they wanted Uncle to understand more about Nam, and to have some empathy with street kids.

The boys knew what they were talking about, too.

One is a 23 year old, studying in Grade 8, who ran away from home at age 16 because he'd never been to school and he wanted to learn to read and write. He had to twice escape from a detention centre to get back to his studies, and he now works part time for another charity.

One is training now to be a mechanic, but he was one of the first of the trafficked children who we helped to escape from Ho Chi Minh City back in 2006.

And the third boy has recently returned to Hanoi after 18 months in a reform school. He has an amazing history of his own - he's lived an absolutely wild life on the streets at times, but is now making an incredible effort to 'buckle down' and do his best. He's living in our shelter and working full time at a local restaurant, while also studying English in the evenings.

So these 3 young guys knew what they were talking about when they spoke up in defence of street kids.

Each took a turn at explaining to Uncle that they, too, have been through periods of running on the wrong side of the law; that they too have spent time on the streets, living from day to day and not thinking about tomorrow. But, they reasoned, they made it through - with a helping hand from people who cared about them. Uncle nodded, understood, and asked them more about their experiences.

Nam listened to all this too - I guess you could say he was a captive audience - and although he said nothing, I know this had an impact on him.

And as for me - what a great moment to stand and listen to these 3 guys sharing their experiences, warts and all, and argue that every kid deserves another chance. I left with tears in my eyes.


Alison said...

Every kid deserves another chance. How true! It's so good Blue Dragon is there to offer them one.

Best wishes for Nam's recovery.

Terynn said...

Beautiful. But then, forgiveness, redemption and grace always are.

Hang in there, Blue Dragon. Your work makes a difference. One child at a time.

Amy Ha said...

i've got tears in my eyes too Mike. wishing all of them the strength and willpower to pull through all this and turn their life around. because no one can do that for them but themselves.

hugs to you & the whole BD family xoxox

Dan said...

I just wanted to write and say I think it is great what you are doing at Blue Dragon. I have been in to see you guys; having your dedicated young mechanics work on my bike.

I hope the two boys are ok. Living in Hanoi for a year now I have also seen too often serious traffic accidents; often caused by speed and made much worse through lack of helmets.