Who Are the Street Children of Hanoi?

Bread Maker

Stone Carver

Steel Fabricator

Bamboo Weaver

Sewing Machine Operator

PLAN Program Officer

Teacher

Tourist

Photo- grapher
(Click on the photos above to see more articles)
 
 

Thanh, PLAN Program Officer for the Street Children Project in Hanoi
PLAN Program Officer
Hello, my name is Thanh and I run the Street Children Project in Hanoi for PLAN Vietnam. My favorite part of the job is working in the field with the children.
 
People come to Hanoi because it is much easier to make money here than in the rural provinces. They leave behind their homes to live on the street, beg, collect rubbish, sell postcards and shine shoes because they can make 5,000 - 10,000 VND per day (14,000 VND = $1USD). People are registered in their home provinces and are not allowed to move. Because they come to Hanoi illegally, children are not eligible to attend public school or to receive other public services.
 
Some children come to Hanoi alone and some come with their families. Those who come with their family often have parents die, are abandoned or not cared for properly.

 
 
 
Some concrete lessons learned from our work on the Street Children Project in Hanoi:
  1. When we began the street children project, we tried to help children return to their homes in rural areas. This did not work. The kids would just return to Hanoi. We had much more success with children who came to Hanoi because of conflicts with their parents than with kids who came to earn a living. With counseling, we were able to help them resolve their conflicts and reintegrate them into their families and schools.
     
    Many children came to Hanoi because they needed to make money and sometimes to support their families in their home villages. We learned that to help these kids we needed to directly support their families back in the rural communities. The families were then able to call their children back home. However, we were only able to do this in a small number of selected rural communities and children come to Hanoi from all over the country. So there is still much work to be done.

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  3. It is not easy to get street children to attend vocational training, or to have a stable job. After sometime, we learned that some of the main reasons are:
    • Their education background is too low to follow any kind of training.
    • They are familiar with life on the street where they have more freedom, so they feel uncomfortable working in an ordered environment and following rules.
    • In fact they can earn more money hustling on the street (20,000 - 30,000 VND or $2 USD a day), than they can at a stable job (15,000 VND a day in general).

    We are more successful with vocational training when we talk with and learn about an individual child (this is mainly done by CPCC staff). We find out their hobbies, and encourage them to participate in jobs they like and have the capacity to learn. We also have older children, who have gotten better jobs and are seeing the benefits of vocational training, talk with the younger kids.

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  5. We learned it is much easier to have kids, already involved with the street children project, recruit their friends than to have counselors go out into the community. Some children are doing things they know are wrong, like stealing, and they are afraid the CPCC staff or counselors will criticize them. They are much more receptive when they hear about the project from their friends.

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  7. The street children project (classes, recreational activities, etc.) has successes. Some kids become quite different people when they join our project. They say they feel like they are part of a family and that they are no longer forgotten.

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  9. In many cases, the kindness of tourists/visitors/people only makes children dependent on outside assistance. It is then more difficult to convince a child of the need for an education and a stable job. Without these skills the child's situation is actually far worse in the long run.
Children as young as five years old, face a myriad of adversity every day: They must make enough money to buy food and water every day. They are easy prey to older children or adults who can steal from, exploit and abuse them. They have no safe place to sleep. They do not understand basic hygienic practices or have access to sanitary facilities so also they also suffer from many diseases.
 

Drawing at the Warm Shelter Counseling Center for drop in street children.

PLAN International works with the government's Committee for the Protection and Care for Children (CPCC) to help the street children by providing basic healthcare, counseling, education and vocational training.
 
Sick children must be treated before anything else. Frequently, illnesses stem from poor hygiene so the child must be taught healthy practices to stay well.

 

Multi-grade class at a temple in the city zoo

PLAN and CPCC programs main focus is to provide the children with a basic education. Classes are taught at flexible times and at convenient locations because the children must continue to earn enough money to survive by begging, shining shoes, collecting rubbish, etc. These classes are taught by volunteer teachers in whatever location is available, such as the teachers private home, Buddhist temples or even in the alley. Because of the shortage of teachers and facilities, children at different grade levels are taught together, which makes the teachers job that much more difficult.
 
In addition to a basic education, which includes reading, writing, arithmetic, history, etc., the students must learn basic social skills and manners appropriate for children. The student must learn to show up to class on time, proper respect for the teacher and other adults, appropriate behavior in the classroom, etc. Essentially, the teacher must teach everything that is normally taught by a parent. Students in fact refer to their teachers as 'mother'.

 

Playing board games at the Warm Shelter Counseling Center for drop in street children.

Students generally love learning and love their teachers. They frequently show up to class early and try to get siblings and friends to attend.
 
PLAN and CPCC also provide counseling centers to help children with their many problems. The centers are a place where the kids can meet together, play games, draw pictures and have contact with adults they can trust. Counselors may also intervene on the child's behalf in emergency situations.
 
If a child is attending classes and behaving well they may also be offered vocational training such as bread making and stone carving. These are set up as 'on the job' apprenticeship during which the child learns a trade. The child does not get paid for several months while they are learning and they must also continue to attend classes. So the child must make additional sacrifices to an already difficult life in order to learn a trade.

 

People living under a bridge

The street children lead hard and desperate lives. It is very satisfying to see them make a better life for themselves with just a little assistance. Even though they live on the street, they are still children. And every child has limitless potential.
 
 
 
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