During the day, the city of Hanoi is full of people. But at night, when the crowds begin to disappear, children growing up alone on the streets are more visible. The Bui Doi, or "children of the dust" can be found in the markets,the parks, or the bus and train stations. While some are able to earn money selling newspapers and gum, or shining shoes, often they fall victim to criminal elements in the city, learning to pick pockets, or sell drugs. Sadly, 92 percent end up in sex trafficking, and some of the children are as young as five. Often they do not get much sleep, because they are beaten and robbed of whatever they manage to earn - which is usually less than a dollar a day.
No one knows for certain how many children there are, but estimates are in the thousands in Hanoi alone, and about 23,000 in the country. The numbers dwindle after police round ups, but slowly climb back up as the children come out of hiding. If they are caught by the police, they go to a mandatory rehabilitation center, where they may be for a few weeks or several months. Here they may be locked in overcrowded cells for as long as 23 hours a day under terrible conditions. They are usually locked in along with adults and may suffer abuse at their hands.
About three years ago, A Villager's Hand partnered with Friends for Street Children, a local organization that rescues the children, and provides clothing, food, shelter and an education. In order to support the costs of caring for the children, we sell crafts made by local women. These women earn enough to take care of their families, and profits support the centers for these children. There are approximately 1300 children now safely off the streets and in 7 development centers, thanks to FFSC.