Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Two weeks

Every email that I send includes a list of Blue Dragon's key achievements: 310,649 meals served... 278 trafficked children rescued... 120 teens placed in jobs... and so on.

One of those statistics today goes up from 147 to 148. That's the number of runaway kids we've reunited with their families.

A runaway teen on the streets of Hanoi at night. 

Working with runaway children is a key part of our assistance to street children. All but two of those 148 have been rural children who have come to Hanoi, either on their own or with friends, running away for a whole variety of reasons. The other two have been kids with families in Hanoi.

Why do Vietnamese kids run away from home? Some are escaping domestic abuse. Some have had a small problem at home or at school and don't know how to resolve it, so think they have to leave home. We even met a little boy once who ran away from home accidentally... but that's another story...

Blue Dragon has been working in Vietnam for about 10 years now. When we started out, it took us a long time to help runaway children. As a rule of thumb, we would aim to have runaway kids home within 2 weeks. It took that long for us to build trust, find out the truth about why the child had run away, and get them to agree to a reunion. As a non-government agency, we are not meant to help a child without the parent's permission, so we need to make contact with families as quickly as possible.

But that 'rule of thumb' 2 weeks is now a thing of the past. Having met so many runaway children and helped them work through their problems, the Outreach team now find that they can resolve most cases in just a few days.

The latest runaway boy, "Thuong," came to us on Monday night; he's a tiny boy, and says he's 15 but more likely he's only 13. One of the Blue Dragon boys who lives in our shelter met him on the street and brought him to us straight away. On Tuesday our Outreach Team Leader, himself a former street kid, spent time with Thuong and by the end of the day Thuong had opened up and said he wanted to go home.

Today, Thuong's family have come in to Hanoi to take him home. Often we accompany the child to their family home, but in this case the parents wanted to make the trip in to the city. They're relieved and grateful - and probably want to make sure of who we are. Our psychologist will talk with the family to help them better understand their son, and make sure Thuong won't be in too much trouble for running away.

And if Thuong's family needs some ongoing help, we'll do our best to provide that, too.

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