Saturday, December 09, 2006

The Big Secret

This evening I am writing from Saigon - I flew here on Thursday night for a quick holiday, and will head back to Hanoi on Sunday. Just a few days' escape.

Thursday finished on an awfully sad note; one of our kids and his mother were given some bad news from the children's hospital.

The boy, Duc, is about 14 and has a growth hormone deficiency. Mother and son have been to so many doctors, and had so many contradictory diagnoses, that their levels of hope for recovery have risen and fallen a hundred times over. One of our Australian volunteers, Skye, and a staff member, Lam, have been accompanying them to various hospitals and doctors, both foreign and local, in search of a definitive answer to their questions - can Duc be treated? What medicines does he need? How will his condition impact his health and future?

Simple questions, but no simple answers. Some doctors at Hanoi Family Medical Practice have become deeply involved - one doctor even accompanied Duc to a local hospital on Thursday. But the final verdict is that Duc cannot grow any more. There is no possibility of treatment.

Duc and his mother are pretty upset. They have been through so much - Duc's health is just one of many problems - and this is yet another blow to them both.

But... when I get back to Hanoi I believe I'll have some good news for them. It won't make up for all the suffering they have been through so far, but it will help. More on that during the week.

There have been some good developments, too, for some other kids. Another of our teens, who has a facial growth that keeps getting bigger, seems to have been accepted for surgery in Australia in March, and has just been issued with a passport. Now we must get him and his mum a visa, and find somewhere for them to stay in Brisbane.

And here in Saigon, a very sudden and unexpected development: a new street kid has joined us!

Blue Dragon has no official work in the south - not yet! - but there's an increasing number of street kids here with whom we have contact. Yesterday, I met a shoeshine boy named Nghia (That's him in the photo below). He's from Thanh Hoa, in the north, and has been working here for about two months.

He hates it; he's miserable and he misses his family. But poverty and some family breakdown have lead him to the south, where he earns money for his mother and send it home every couple of weeks.

Nghia is one of these kids who just breaks my heart. He's smart, kind, and honest - and shining shoes on the street. Such a waste of a great, valuable life.

I had one of the Blue Dragon staff help me talk to Nghia to see how we could help - what would I do without a mobile phone? - and Nghia says he wants to go home, finish Grade 9, then study a Vocational Training course. He refused to take any money, and told my staff over the phone that he has already saved enough money to buy a bus ticket back home. But he was very anxious to know that we will help him once he returns to the countryside: Can we really help him and his mother? Will we pay his school fees? Is there a way that we can send him to study a vocational course?

If only I could tell him: It's all so easy. The Big Secret of charity work is that it's ALL easy. It's just a matter of will.

Our growth-hormone deficient boy, Duc: We can't make him grow, but we can ensure a high quality of life at least until he gets through university. We've recently employed his mum, so she no longer has to sell fruit in the market from 5.30am until nightfall; now she's a carer during the weekdays, looking after a small group of homeless kids.

And Quan, with the facial growth: In Australia, the operation that he needs is not such a big deal. It's no walk in the park, but it's fairly routine. There's no need for him to spend his whole life with the deformity.

Now for Nghia: Yes, we can get him home and back to school. Why not? All we have to do is talk to his school, visit his home, and organise to pay school fees and check his attendance.

It's so, so easy. Just a matter of will; and my staff and I have plenty of that.


Anonymous said...

Blue Dragon...hope you guys all the bests with Street people...

Anonymous said...

Yeah, everything is easy when hope and love for life are still there.

mai said...

I wish BD guys best l hope they s friends,I wish they will try their best to overcome difficulties in live.Being one of nghia'friends,I really feel happy

Anonymous said...

I wish BD guys best l hope they s friends,I wish they will try their best to overcome difficulties in live.Being one of nghia'friends,I really feel happy