Children’s Tears

9:05' 03/12/2007 (GMT+7)

(Reprinted from VietNamNet)


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.


Da Nang, Viet Nam
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