Da Nang — Nguyen Ran is known to many for his kind heart. His most precious assets are his adopted street children and harmonica.
He has made his home on Nguyen Cong Tru Street, Da Nang City. It is one of four "families" run by the Da Nang Centre for the Protection of Street Children.
Before 1975, Ran was recognised as a beggar blowing his harmonica for money. Wherever he went he was surrounded by a group of ragged children who came to the city to make a living.
Ran was an uninvited guest to almost all the big parties in town, hoping to take left over food for the hungry kids waiting outside.
After the city was liberated in 1975, together with a group of kind-hearted people, Ran gathered the street children in one place to provide food, shelter and teach them how to read, write and do simple math. He also taught them to be good citizens.
Ran’s dream was to open a home for street children.
French First Lady helps
One day he wrote a letter to the French First Lady, Danielle Mitterrand asking for her support.
Deeply moved by his correspondence, during her visit to Viet Nam in 1991 with her husband, she asked the Vietnamese authorities to introduce her to Ran.
Following the trip, the French humanitarian organisation France Liberte offered to help create the Da Nang Centre for the Protection of Street Children of which Ran would become director.
Since 1991, the centre has expanded into four "families" that bring up street children, educate and teach them life skills so they can stand on their own two feet.
Winning hearts, minds
Every night, Ran goes to public hubs like train and bus stations, markets or street corners along the Han River to "seek his children" and bring them to the centre.
In the beginning, most are juvenile delinquents. It is not easy to get them to stay. For Ran and his colleagues, "winning the hearts and minds of delinquents is very important". They do their best to support and care for them and for the most part, eventually succeed.
Ran recalled, "one night I found four brothers sleeping in the city’s Khanh Son landfill". He tried to persuade them to join him at the centre, but they refused.
Ran did not give up. He approached them several times and finally they agreed.
The four brothers were not used to sleeping in their own beds. They would defensively huddle together on the floor.
Now, the eldest brother has become an active educator to protect street children in a club on Thao Dan street, Ho Chi Minh City.
Another young man, Hung, was rescued by Ran from the Han Bridge while attempting to throw himself into the river. He was a disabled boy that got by selling lottery tickets, they were stolen and he was devastated.
Hung is now a barber on the corner of Ngo Quyen Street in Da Nang City.
With harmonica in hand, Nguyen Ran spends his days seeking out needy children and moving from one "family" to another to make sure they have enough food to eat and clothes to wear. — VNS