Friday, June 28, 2013

Hate me

It's Friday... and the Blue Dragon staff are collectively holding their breath. Can we make it through this weekend without any dramas?

The past week has been packed with crisis.

Our rescue of 2 girls in China, which I will write more about next week, was particularly dangerous; the girls were being kept in an underground brothel, with escape seemingly impossible.

Here in Hanoi, several staff spent much of the week in and out of police stations dealing with kids who had been arrested. The team at Dragon House were focused on counseling teenagers who were turning up with self inflicted cuts and burns, or diagnosed with serious illnesses, or afraid that they (or their girlfriend) were pregnant.

So why all the problems?

The common thread with many of the kids we're working with is a deep self loathing. They've been raised to believe they are bad people. They've heard it from family, from school, and from the community. And then they have come across adults who see their vulnerability, and take full advantage of it.

Teens and children who have no self worth are easy pickings for abusers who want kids for sex, or to sell drugs, or to kidnap and sell to brothels. These experiences, in turn, reinforce the kids' belief that they are useless and valueless. That's when they turn to punishing themselves and engaging in risky behaviour.

During the week, one police station released into our care a teen boy they had arrested. When we picked him up, he had no shirt and no shoes - he was in a real mess. So we grabbed some spare clothes, then took him for a meal on the way back to the Shelter.

As he finished the meal, he excused himself to have a cigarette outside... and promptly vanished. We didn't see him until lunch the next day.

Why would this boy, who we have been caring for over the past 6 months, behave like that? Was he ungrateful? Was he just taking advantage of us?

It was confusing and hurtful for one of the kids treat us like that - but that's exactly what he needed us to feel. Confused and hurt. Because that's how he feels. His life is a mess. He doesn't know who he is or what will happen next. So he wants to know if we really care about him or not. By walking away like that, he was asking us: How will you react? Will you hate me?

I personally find it frightening to see the risky behaviours among the kids, along with the self hate and the self harm. We're seeing it more and more. Vietnam's street kids are facing more problems, and more complex problems, than ever before.

So here's to hoping for a weekend with no arrests, no injuries, no kidnappings. But in case they do occur - and it's pretty likely that they will - we'll be ready as always.

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