Greater commitment to Vietnamese street children needed

Greater commitment to Vietnamese street children needed
Data indicate that the number of children living on the streets has dropped but the number of migrant children is up. Often the latter have no birth certificate. The various institutions involved need to be co-ordinated but the authorities refuse.

Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) – In Vietnam, according to data by the Street Educators’ Club, the number of street children has dropped from 21,000 in 2003 to 8,000 in 2007. In particular, the number went from 1,507 to 113 in Hanoi and from 8,507 to 794 in Ho Chi Minh City. By contrast, the number of migrant children is up. And street children are by and large migrants as well.

Ms Hang, a social worker involved with street children in the Thu Duc district, told AsiaNews that “now migrant children are also street children. They come to industrial areas to earn money. Parents take advantage of their children’s labour to have money for their living. So we need to raise awareness among adults about rights of children. The government needs to implement the accords reached at the international conference on the rights of children that it signed in 1999. Many street children do not have birth certificates; this means that when they grow up they will not have an identity card so they cannot work for any government company or go to the hospital.”

Mr. Thuong, another social worker with experience in the field, shared his experience. He said that “to help the unlucky children we need to base our interventions on the international conference on children rights and Viet Nam’s own law for the protection and care of children. Warm shelters and drop-in centres care and work with street children well, but we have no voice in saying what the rights of children are. Since they have no personal papers, they cannot go to universities. When they will work their salary will be very low because employers will exploit their labour to reduce production costs. And children at the age of 14, 15 or 16 work without labour protection”.

For Mr Son, another expert in street children, there is a clear need to co-ordinate the action of those who operate in the sector. “There are almost 400 social organisations, international NGOs raising some 15,000 children living in especially difficult circumstances. However, there are still street children and migrant children who are at high risk. They are easy to be pushed around or get involved in scraps with the law, sexual abuse, violence or getting HIV/AIDS on the street. Still local authorities do not allow these social organisations to build up networks so that they can share their experiences with one another, providing information on the cases that will enable them to intervene on time for children’s sake. But when involved in advocacy social workers are able to raise awareness among parents and local authorities about their duties towards children.”

For this reason, in order to “implement the laws local authorities should have practical social policies for social workers and recognise that social workers’ jobs are professional,” he added.

Advertisements

Thua Thien-Hue launches project to support street children

Authorities of the central city of Hue have initiated a project designed to divert homeless street children into shelters to reduce mendicancy and improve the local tourism industry.

Under the project titled “Eliminating beggars to enable a healthy town for tourism,” street children will be recruited to live and study at five orphanages in the town.

Nearly 300 local children live on the street, according to statistics reported by the town’s Committee of Population, Family and Children.

Over 800 others are facing the risk of homelessness due to parents’ poverty and unemployment.

Reported by Thuy Trang

Increase in child abuse stumps police

Increase in child abuse stumps police
16:42′ 15/01/2008 (GMT+7)

VietNamNet Bridge – A recent surge in cases of child sexual abuse has left the victims and their families in inconsolable pain and confronted authorities with the big question of how to deal with the issue.

Street kids participate in learning programmes. Street kids have the highest potential of falling victim to child abuse.
Street kids participate in learning programmes. Street kids have the highest potential of falling victim to child abuse.

Last December, a 13-year-old girl in Tay Ho District, Hanoi, was deceived by a young man who identified himself as a student and asked her to show him the way and then was abused.

Public opinion was indignant over the case of Nguyen Huu Lai, a teacher in Bac Ninh Province, who sexually abused students in his fifth-grade class.

Also shocking, Le Van Thang, 28, from Thai Nguyen Province, was accused of child sexual abuse by the police unit of Dong Da District in Hanoi for deceiving young male street children, taking them to his home and abusing them.

According to Colonel Nguyen Manh Te from the Social Security Criminal Investigation Department of the Ministry of Public Security, on average, there are about 800 cases of child sexual abuse every year.

"Child sexual abuse is becoming more and more complicated. Fifty percent of child abuse cases are now sexual abuse," said Te.

However, the figure given is only a relative calculation, since many victims and their families tend to hide the issue.

The child sexual abuse consultation line of the Telecommunication Consultation and Service Centre of the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, has received hundreds of calls reporting child sexual abuse, but most of the people who call try to hide their names.

"One man called and asked for consultation for a child who was sexually abused. However, he did not say that it was his daughter’s story. We had to spend another week on finding more information about the incident. When he finally took his daughter to the centre, the girl was seriously hurt and shocked," said Dang Nam, director of the centre.

The main reason for the alarming situation is that many children still lack knowledge on sexual abuse and how to protect themselves.

"Children are not told about sensitive parts of their body. And when they are not aware of their bodies themselves, how can we ask them to protect themselves? Otherwise, children in Vietnam are often taught to obey adults and not to object to things they don’t like. Sometimes, parents accidentally make them lose their self-awareness," said Hoang Thu Lan, director of the Centre for Research, Family Health and Community.

Inadequacies

Due to the hesitation in admitting abuse, many victims’ families do not report the incidents to police or other authorities, thus making it hard for these organs to collect evidence and carry out investigations. Many criminals, therefore, easily slip through the punishment they deserve.

Additionally, there have been many cases in which the victims are young boys, but no case has gone to trial since many court officials still consider child sexual abuse as only covering girls, according to Duong Tuyet Mien, lecturer of Ha Noi Law University.

Meanwhile, the country’s legal system does not have any regulation defining child sexual abuse or separate regulations on children who are victims of crimes in general and victims of sexual abuse in particular.

This has caused a lot of trouble in the procedural process and can amplify the pain of the victims, said Vu Cong Giao, a member of Viet Nam Lawyers’ Association.

Recently, the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs conducted a project titled Prevention and Solutions for Child Sexual Abuse for the 2004-2010 Period, aimed at finding a stable solution for the issue.

Under this project, the ministry, in co-operation with international organisations, has supported and instructed 22 provinces across the country to carry out research, providing information about child sexual abuse to parents and children.

(Source: Viet Nam News)

Vietnamese Street Children Exhibit in Herlev

Vietnamese Street Children Exhibit in Herlev

Photos taken by Vietnamese street children will be exhibited in Herlev, Denmark on Friday the 18th of January
 

 Danish Vietnamese Association is opening the photo exhibition “Street Vision” on Friday the 18th of January in Herlev Medborgerhus from 16:00- 17:30, Herlevgårdsvej 18-2, Herlev. The pictures have all been taken by streets children and disadvantaged children in Ho Chi Minth City in Vietnam in cooperation with two Dutch photographers. The exhibition depict scenes from the children’s families and daily life and has been shown with great success many places around the world.
    The exhibition is one of the results of Danish Vietnamese Association’s cooperation with the ho Chi Minth City Child Welfare Foundation and their Little Rose Warm Shelter which is a home for disadvantaged young girls.
    Copies of the pictures can be bought for DKK 200. The full amount minus printing and transport costs goes directly to the Little Rose Warm Chelter and The Green Bamboo Shelter, which likewise is a home for streets children in Ho Chi Minth City.

The exhibition is open until March the 14th

Hanoi helps underprivileged children

Hanoi helps underprivileged children
00:52′ 07/01/2008 (GMT+7)

VietNamNet Bridge – Hanoi authorities have been promoting the socialization of child care by providing loans for families with street children, organizing vocational training courses and generating jobs for disadvantaged children.

The Hanoi Population, Family and Children Committee has two major projects to help street children who have to earn their living, and to promote communication among media workers in the five key inner districts of Hoan Kiem, Hai Ba Trung, Dong Da, Thanh Xuan and Ba Dinh. The aim is to reduce the number of street children and prevent child abuse.

With the assistance of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Hanoi Youth Union and the Hanoi Women’s Union have set up healthy life clubs in two districts, drawing the participation of many underprivileged children.

In particular, the free hotline 18001567 has provided needed consultancy to more than 2,100 street children and has helped them make a more stable life in the social support centres. As a result, the number of street children in 2007 dropped to 102.  

(Source: VOV)

American girls, cookies change lives of Vietnamese street kids

American girls, cookies change lives of Vietnamese street kids

(05-12-2007)

by Hong Van

Street children, their families and volunteers at Sozo’s opening ceremony. Sozo trains disadvantaged kids to work in the food preparation and service industries. — VNS File Photo

HCM CITY — Sozo in Greek means to save, keep safe and sound or rescue from danger and destruction.

That was the original vision of 24-year-old Rachel Lutz from the US state of Georgia, and her friends Tracy Tuning, Cindy Zuspan and Max Raabe when they first visited Viet Nam more than four years ago.

During that first trip, Rachel said she met many street children and learned about their family situations.

Besides buying postcards from the kids, putting them on the back of motorbikes for a fun ride and taking them to Vung Tau beaches for a day out, Lutz and her friends had a burning desire to give the children more stable lives.

In January 2004, Lutz returned to Viet Nam and realised that it was for the long term.

The idea of baking and selling chocolate chip cookies from a small cart in the budget tourist area of Pham Ngu Lao, De Tham and Bui Vien streets came to Lutz and her friends in April after they learned that one of their Vietnamese friends was deeply in debt.

Beginning from that small cart set up in front of a travel agency on De Tham Street, Lutz and her eight volunteers are now managing a larger shop, the Sozo Centre at 176 Bui Vien Street, District 1, with 25 Vietnamese former street children and their families as staff.

The centre is a small coffee shop on the ground floor selling American-style bakery goods, including banana and carrot muffins, banana-chocolate bread, cinnamon rolls, apple tarts and a variety of cookies, like oatmeal raisin and peanut butter.

Lutz said Sozo was expanding and would soon have a function room upstairs for meeting and training.

She also plans to invite non-governmental organisations and other social welfare organisations to visit and talk about volunteering and how it can change lives.

Brighter future

Lam Trinh Hong Quyen, 16, was among the children who travelled to Vung Tau with Lutz in 2003, deciding finally to visit Sozo just last year.

"I was used to the street lifestyle," Quyen explained, saying that she didn’t know what the centre could offer her.

She said while she was on the streets, she used to make more than VND100,000 (US$6.25) a day.

"But then I was making less and less because foreigners tend to buy postcards and books from smaller children," Quyen said.

So she quit and approached Lutz’s centre for employment.

Now Quyen is making VND4,000 per hour an average of six hours a day, with meals provided.

The centre pays for her school tuition, and she stays with other children at a house the centre rented so that they can be close to Sozo and the school.

Quyen’s younger sister is also working at Sozo.

Quyen said her mother preferred her to work at Sozo because it was safer and more stable. "Every week I can send back VND100,000 to my mother," Quyen said.

More than two years ago, another employee, 15-year-old Chau Thi Phuong Hang, came to HCM City from the Mekong Delta province of An Giang to sell lottery tickets.

After one week, her aunt who was working at Sozo brought Hang to the centre.

Hang said she learned how to make the cookies sold at the cafe.

"I would want to open a small shop selling cookies like this. A small one, not something big, and not with so many utensils like this," Hang said.

While Quyen wants to become a tourist guide, Hang dreams of being a cai luong (reformed opera) performer.

Support system

For others who first worked at the centre and were in debt, Lutz and her friends helped them pay off the debt. And with their weekly savings from their salaries, some of the staff have been able to repay Lutz and her friends.

Committed to helping street children and disadvantaged people, Sozo uses its revenues for expanding the business, supporting the staff and sending them for training.

Lutz said she was lucky to have private sponsorship from back home so that she could dedicate herself to helping disadvantaged people.

The long-term vision, Lutz said, was to eventually transfer the grown children to restaurants or hotels in town.

To encourage other people to engage in volunteering, Sozo has a network of more than 2,000 students who take part in Sozo’s monthly charity activities at HIV/AIDS centres or orphanages in the city.

Twice a week on Tuesday and Friday, Vietnamese students also pack the centre to practice their English with foreign volunteers.

"I’m so happy with what I am doing," Lutz said. "When I first came here, I thought it was impossible for me to be able to make a difference because I was young, and I knew nothing."

Speaking to the student volunteers last Saturday to celebrate the United Nations International Volunteer Day which falls on December 5, Lutz said: "If you take a very small rock and you throw it into a big pond of water, the rock disappears and falls to the bottom."

"In the beginning you cannot see anything, then you will see little bubbles on the water and then it gets bigger and bigger and bigger. It is the same for volunteering. You might do something small, but it can affect many people’s lives." — VNS

Children’s tears

Children’s tears
09:05′ 03/12/2007 (GMT+7)

VietNamNet Bridge – Everywhere in big cities of Vietnam, one can see many street children who are earning their living by selling newspapers, lottery tickets, shining shoes, etc.

 

Vietnam currently has around 120,000 street children, according to statistics of the Children Affairs Agency under the Ministry of Labour, War Invalids and Social Affairs. However, the real number is believed to be much higher.

 

There are thousands of circumstances that force rural children to become street children in cities.

 

Working hard, being insulted, beaten, etc., many street children endure it in silence.

 

Every morning, when restaurants and cafes around the Thanh Cong apartments in Hanoi open their doors, Tham is there.

 

Carrying a bag as big as her body, which contains shoe polish, a brush, some pieces of cloth, and several old sandals, Tham goes through all restaurants and cafes to ask customers if they want their shoes shined.

 

At the age of 14, Tham does not have a chance to go to school. She has to work to seek three meals a day. Her day begins at 5 in the morning and goes till 9 or 10 in the evening.

 

Tham is the youngest of three siblings. Her family is very poor. Her father was a drunk who died three years ago. One year later, Tham’s eldest brother died of drugs. Her mother married again, leaving Tham and her brother to a relative. Tham had to go to Hanoi to work. When Tham was at home, she was a shy little girl but life has stolen her innocence.

 

On a sunny noon, two little girls named Thuy and Tuoi, 13, from Nam Dinh, were sitting in burning sunlight at a street restaurant near Dong Xuan Market, Hanoi to invite customers to stop at the restaurant. As the restaurant owner called, Thuy and Tuoi took turns to carry food to customers.

 

On Trieu Viet Vuong street, Hanoi, Hoang Van Anh, 15, from Thanh Hoa province, is polishing shoes for a man. Anh has done this job for two years. Hardship has made Anh look like a 20-year-old boy.

 

“My family is very poor. I and my brother had to quit school to work in Hanoi to help my parents to feed my younger brothers,” Anh said.

 

Street children have to work hard and have to know how to be resigned to avoid bullying.

 

“Sometimes customers fail to pay me. I’m also robbed,” Anh said.

 

Nguyen Van Thanh, 15, from Phu Tho province, is working for a beer restaurant in Hanoi. His face is red with sweat after several hours of working and serving hundreds of customers.

 

“I have to be very careful in this job. If I lose a glass of beer, my employer will deduct it from my salary. Once I lost all of my salary because of this,” Thanh said.

 

As the lights were being turned on in Hanoi, several shoe polishers were returning to their lodging-houses in 105 Alley, Bach Mai street, Hanoi.

 

Nguyen Van Dung, 14, from Thanh Hoa, quit school when he was a 7th grader. He said that he earned VND20,000 ($1.3) that day. “Today I ate bread this morning and my dinner is this bowl of instant noodles,” Dung said.

 

“It is miserable but I will stay here till I grow up. I will seek another job to earn more money. I miss my parents very much but I have my friend here. He is two years younger than me. He worked for a confectionery enterprise but he quit that job because he was insulted too much. Now he is a beggar,” Dung said.

 

On an old street, a pho restaurant was very crowded at night. Two young boys came on a big motorbike. Immediately when they stopped at the restaurant, a small boy arrived to hold the motorbike and wheel it to the pavement. A small girl in red blouse also came to invite the two boys into the restaurant.

 

The little girl is named Ha, 15, from Nam Dinh. Ha said that there are many girls of 14-15 from Hai Duong, Phu Tho, Ha Tay working for restaurants like her.

 

Ha said that her restaurant is open till mid-night. “I can stand hardship but I can’t sustain being insulted by my boss. I want to quit but she did not agree. She said if I quit, she will not pay salary for several months,” Ha said.

 

Children working at private enterprises like printing, wood processing, plastic, etc. are luckier because they can learn a real job but they are paid very little.

 

(Source: DS&PL)

Australian-Vietnamese devotes her time to street kids

Street children attending a class with an Australian volunteer in Ho Chi Minh City

Tran Thi Yen is a Vietnamese girl who was raised in Australia. There she earned a university degree and had a good job, but something was missing from her life.

She is now a volunteer in Ho Chi Minh City helping disadvantaged children and feeling more fulfilled than ever.

For over half a year now, Yen has been working diligently at “15 May School”.

This is a non-profit school and shelter for street kids in District 1.

They provide primary and secondary education to over 250 children free of charge, as well as providing shelter for more than 30 children with no one else to care for them.

Each day Yen walks for ten minutes from her flat to the school to have positive interactions with the kids by running educational programs.

The rest of her time is spent seeking scholarships and other resources for the children.

Much of that time is spent online communicating with people interested in volunteering time or resources to assist the children of 15 May School.

“There’s so much to do,” Yen said.

“But I find it interesting working with teachers, volunteers and the children. It helps me realize how lucky I am.”

Yen mentioned a girl named Thang with admiration and sympathy.

“Thang was born in a small village in Ha Tinh Province,” Yen said.

“She left her village at 15 and went with a sister to Saigon to look for work. She had no education and worked as a waitress at a cafe for a small wage.

Thang wound up being brought to 15 May School where she has been educated until now.

She often says she dreams of being able to make enough money when she grows up to built her own school for poor children. I hope her dream comes true.”

Yen told us that she had learned about the work of 15 May School when she paid a visit to Vietnam two years ago while she was still at university.

She was impressed by the work of the teachers there and admired the impact they had on the lives of the disadvantaged children.

After visiting Vietnam Yen returned to Australia and completed her university degree in Art Design.

Afterwards, she entered the working world and became a young professional.

However, the desire to do something loftier with her time kept bringing back the image of the disadvantaged children in Vietnam to her mind.

Finally, she made the decision to follow her dreams.

Yen quit her job and became involved with the Australian Youth Ambassadors for Development (AYAD) program.

She is one of many young people in the AYAD program working in Vietnam.

Yen became a member when she was introduced by another volunteer.

She took a training course in Vietnamese culture, medical care, and working skills through the organization to prepare her for what she would do when she came to Vietnam.

Yen returned to Vietnam to devote her time to the disadvantaged children of her motherland.

She doesn’t make the money she would climbing the corporate ladder in Australia, but she is fulfilled in her work.

The corporate world may offer money, but working with street kids offers compassion which is a more valuable asset to Yen.

AUSTRALIAN HELP

There are now 23 young Australians working as AYAD program volunteers in Vietnam. The AYAD program is fully funded by the Australian Government’s overseas aid agency, AusAID.

Launched in August 1998, the AYAD program goal is to strengthen mutual understanding between Australia and the countries of the Asia Pacific region by making a positive contribution to development.

The program does this through four main objectives:

1. To provide opportunities for young Australians to contribute to Australia’s overseas aid program and to gain personal and professional experience in developing countries.
2. To build the capacity of individuals, organizations and communities in partner countries through sharing skills and knowledge.
3. To foster partnerships between organizations and communities in Australia and those in developing countries.
4. To raise public awareness of development issues and the Australian aid program in the Australian community.

For more information about AusAID, please go to http://www.ausaid.gov.au

Reported by Thien Long

Man builds hope for street children

Man builds hope for street children

(23-10-2007)

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

HCM City exhibits street kids’ art

HCM City exhibits street kids’ art

(26-09-2007)

Street roots: Phuong Linh’s oil painting Rung Tram is one of many pieces on display in a special exhibition HCM City.

HCM CITY— A special exhibit of paintings of nature and scenes of daily life by street kids and children with physical disabilities is now on display in HCM City.

The exhibit at the Hotel Equatorial includes work by 60 children who attend schools for disadvantaged children, including Anh Minh, Hy Vong 1, Gia Dinh and the HCM City Youth Vocational Training Centre.

The paintings are executed in oil, watercolour, pastel and other media.

The highlight includes Rung Tram (Cajeput Forest), an oil painting by Phuong Linh, a student of a school for deaf children, Hy Vong 1, in District 1. More than 300 deaf children from the city and rural districts attend the school.

Linh’s work features a girl who is returning home from a forest while carrying firewood on her shoulder.

The 13-year-old skillfully uses green, blue, yellow and light brown to reflect the peace and beauty of trees, fish and water.

Other paintings portray serene moments of children at play or at home and school.

The works sell for US$30-40 each.

"Our event raises money for Linh and her colleagues, helping them continue their studies," said Nguyen Hoang Thinh Tri, who works as a teacher for Hy Vong 1 and is a member of the organising board. "The public’s support gives our kids hope."

Sponsored by Hotel Equatorial and the HCM City Fine Arts Association, the exhibit can be seen at 242 Tran Binh Trong Street, District 5 until October 20. —VNS