Friday, September 19, 2008

Linh and a laptop

One of my common grumbles about the work of charities in developing countries is that they set such low standards for the people they help. They assume that poor people, including street kids, aren't capable of anything other than handicrafts and manual labour.

I love proving them wrong.

The street children who Blue Dragon works with are as diverse as any cross-section of any population, anywhere. One of the kids we 've helped now works for the government as a Garbage Collector; another works part time as an admin assistant in a foreign owned company while studying languages in her free time. To each their own.

Over the last few weeks, I've watched as one young man has made the transition to full time study at an IT College. The phrase "like a hand in a glove" comes to mind: he just seems so suited to his course.

Linh was a tiny runaway boy when I first met in 2004. He lived in Thanh Hoa province with his mother and sister, but they were just so poor that everything kept going wrong for them. It became too much for Linh, so he took off for Hanoi and ended up shining shoes to survive. (I wrote more about this in the Roundup blog a few weeks back). One of our volunteers was able to reunite Linh with his family, and over the past few years we have supported both Linh and his younger sister to go to school.

Now that Linh is studying in College, he seems like such a different person. He's a young man now, not a child. As part of being selected into the college's "elite class," he has been given a laptop, which he carries everywhere and keeps in perfect condition. It struck me the other day that Linh was carrying a rough timber box of shoeshine gear when I first saw him; now he's carrying a laptop in a special bag.

I guess I'm so excited about this (excited enough to be writing about Linh in 2 separate blog entries!) because I see Linh as truly reaching his potential. He's taken on this course because he loves IT, not because he's poor and "this is a good job for poor people," a phrase which stirs an instinct within me to bare my teeth and growl. He's doing it because he wants to, and because it's the right 'fit' for him. The laptop definitely suits Linh much better than the shoeshine box did.

I'll add a photo as soon as I remember to take one... And I must say a special thanks to the donor (you know who you are) who has paid the very expensive course fee for Linh...