Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Escaping violence & moving forward

“Hung” in his home in Dong Thap Province, Viet Nam
© UNICEF Viet Nam \2015\Truong Viet Hung
Hung*, now 16, had a hard start in life. Hung’s mother left the family years ago, never to return, while his father struggled to make ends meet to feed his new wife and baby girl. Too poor and too busy trying to survive, Hung’s father could not provide a nurturing, safe environment for his son. Hung’s grandmother became his primary caregiver but she passed away when he was only 12.

That is when life became more difficult for Hung.  He struggled to do well at school and eventually dropped out in the 4th grade.  With no schooling and no one at home to watch over him, Hung spent more time with friends in internet gaming cafes.

“Hung” with Nguyen Thi Vu Ha, a UNICEF trained Child Protection Officer
© UNICEF Viet Nam \2015\Truong Viet Hung
But, thanks to UNICEF support, Hung is now attending life skills classes and vocational trainings to learn how to become a carpenter.

“These classes have taught me so much about helping myself and other friends to manage challenging situations and resolve conflict,” says Hung, as he explains his difficult family circumstances.

His father and stepmother beat him regularly, until out of fear and anger, Hung ran away from home. “I would run away repeatedly,” Hung recalled.  “I would sleep on the streets or stay at a friend’s home. It made me sad and spending time with friends helped me feel better.”

Living on the streets, Hung met Ha, a child protection officer working with the Dong Thap provincial authority. Here, a social worker and child protection service centre supported by UNICEF helps children like Hung find ways to cope with their difficult family situations.

These centres are part of a developing local child protection system, which UNICEF is supporting throughout Viet Nam. These systems help connect services such as health, education, or justice to provide comprehensive and continuous support for children and families in need.

“The biggest challenge is reaching out to these vulnerable children. They rarely show up to appointments because they are afraid of angering their family further,” explained Ha. “As a child protection officer I provide support to help strengthen the family environment by addressing violence in the home. It is the only chance these children have of improving their lives.”

Ha meets with Hung and his family as much as four to five times a month to provide counselling and support services.  She has also helped Hung enrol in vocational training opportunities which provide vulnerable adolescents with work experience and skills to earn money and contribute to the family income.

Since starting his carpentry training, Hung is now able to focus on his future. “Right now I am training to be a carpenter but what I really want to learn is motorbike repairs. This way I can earn more money later on.”

* Name changed to protect his identity

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