Children Of The Dust

In 1995 I worked with Ngo Kim Cuc on a book project on street children in Vietnam.

We traveled to Hanoi, Hue, Danang and Saigon to interview children living on the streets, in drop in centers and special homes for young girls.

We learned from the children, their difficult lives on the streets and from the abuse that several endured.

One center which was funded through a French donor, was the Street Children Program of Danang.

Nguyen Ran was the director of the program and he was a bright light in their young lives. He had at least 4 drop-in centers for the children, where they learned an education and could learn trades through shops in the city that offered the children the chance to earn a trade and work.

Cuc had two young children of her own, so she was able to sit down with the children and get some in depth stories from the children who saw her soft side of understanding their situations.

We became very close to one family, whose young daughter, seven year old Lan who begged for money on the streets of Danang.  She had developed a high fever when she was a few yeas old that turned into polio.

I gave her the nickname of “Charlie” as she reminded me of Charlie Chaplin in both her humor and how she acted while she begged for money.

On a trip to Cambodia to attend a workshop on children we visited a brothel area, 11 kilometers from Phnom Penh. In this area were numerous shop house business that also were brothels with young Vietnamese girls who had been trafficked from Vietnam to Cambodia.

There were over 900 girls here, some under the age of 12 years or younger who worked as sex workers.

During one of our interviews in one of the brothels, a woman came in with her young daughter to meet the owner of the brothel  and in front of us, paid the mother of the girl in US dollars.

The young girl was escorted to the back room by one of the older girls, as the mother quietly left alone.

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