Thursday, April 23, 2009

Full circle

One of our 'oldest' kids, a 22 year old boy named Toan, has just started his first part time job outside Blue Dragon.

Toan is the 'oldest' not only because of his age - although he is the oldest of all our beneficiaries. But he's also 'oldest' because he's been in our care longer than any other kid has.

When I first met Toan about 6 years ago, he was living a really tough life. He'd been arrested twice for shining shoes on the streets of Hanoi, but each time had made his way out of the detention centre and back to the city where he was working so that he could go to school.

It was an unusual circumstance: at age 16, Toan had never been to school, and his parents wouldn't let him go - so he ran away to the city, enrolled in a school, and worked on the streets shining shoes to pay for his studies and accommodation.

Now aged 22, Toan is in Grade 7 (he's been studying a compacted curriculum) and determined to get right through High School. Although it's more common for organisations like ours to end support when beneficairies turn 18, we've continued to support Toan because he genuinely wants to go through school, and without support he can't do it. However, he is taking steps to independence and although he's been doing some administrative jobs for us at Blue Dragon, it's time for him to take the next step of working for somebody else.

So this week he has started a part time job, and it's not just any job. Toan is working for another charity: the Australian Charity for Children of Vietnam, or ACCV for short.

ACCV is a fairly small organisation, still getting started in fact, but its founder Alison Vidotto is an absolute dynamo. She's the 'real deal': there's no pretence, no fluff, just a hard working woman with a dream to make life better for blind kids in Vietnam. Simple as that. Check out their website. (They're almost as good as Blue Dragon! Truly!!)

Alison and her daughter Rose have been coming to and from Vietnam a couple of times a year for about 4 years now, and they always drop in at Blue Dragon to see how we are. On their very first visit, they met Toan and were deeply impressed by his passion to be educated. So now that they're growing, and need some on-the-ground support, they have decided to employ Toan as their support staff.

He's still going to school, but has a couple of free mornings each week which he'll now use to arrange deliveries, visit families, and run errands around town.

There's no doubt that Toan is passionate about education. But he has another passion, too: he wants to help other disadvantaged kids so that they can have the chance to go to school, which he missed out on when he was younger. This job gives him exactly that opportunity. He's not only earning some money; he's also helping out people who are more disadvantaged than he is.

I meet a lot of young people who have endured difficult circumstances, but I am not exaggerating to say that Toan's story is one of the most inspiring I have come across. I'm grateful to Alison for giving Toan this chance, and I know that this is just the start of a great new chapter in his life.

Go get 'em, Toan.



Terynn said...

Atta boy, Toan!! Keep your eyes on the prize. Keep your dreams in your heart. You are a young man with a future...

Anonymous said...

you're not exaggerating, Michael, Toan's story is truly inpiring! even though I've only read about him in this entry.
Please send all my best wishes to Toan. I'm sure that with such amazing determination, he'll do very well!

lots of hugs to the whole gang at BD too!

Alison said...

the pleasure is all ours -

I think we're the lucky ones to have Toan as part of the ACCV team :)