Imagine leaving your village for life in the big city, with no home or job to go to. Imagine being unable to go to school or work because you’re an immigrant or have no papers. Imagine sleeping in a doorway each night, tired and hungry after a day on the streets. This is the reality of life for more than 11,000 Vietnamese street children, trying to eke out an existence, often hungry and despondent.
Founded in 1984 by Thomas Tran Van Soi to confront this shocking reality, Friends For Street Children Association (FFSC) works to re-integrate these children back in to society, and to prevent them from ending upon the streets in the first place.
As well as providing food, shelter and medical care, a priority for FFSC is the educational and developmental support that children need for a brighter future. Adopting a comprehensive approach to development, their focus is as much on emotional education as it is on intellectual abilities.
FFSC also offers parental training, helping to raise awareness of the need to educate children, and to equip them with the soft skills needed for family life and successful parenting. Through this, much of their work is to prevent disadvantaged kids from ending up on the streets and being caught in the web of poverty and social ills.
Operating in Ho Chi Minh City for more than 30 years, FFSC has grown from their initial development centre to seven centres. They also run a guest house and a handicraft workshop as social enterprises, providing much-needed income for disenfranchised women and helping to fund the work and activities they do at their centres.
Located in the poorest areas of Ho Chi Minh City, they cater for many displaced children who have migrated to the city from rural provinces, providing accommodation, food and learning facilities. They currently support more than 1,300 children and their families in different neighbourhoods.
For children who do not have access to the mainstream education system, FFSC provides elementary level education with the goal of integrating them into public schools. Their professional teachers, social workers and volunteers provide these children with the chance to gain knowledge, develop their potential, and deepen life skills and values through education and training.
For children who can attend public schools and university but who are unable to afford the cost, FFSC provides financial support for education and basic living expenses. Health and dental checks are carried out by volunteers and basic treatment is provided when needed. Training sessions on health issues, life values, and life skills are conducted for children, families, teachers and volunteers.
FFSC believes that caring for children means caring for humanity. They can only achieve their goals with the generous support of caring and concerned individuals and organisations. Regular and personal progress reports link sponsors with children, helping to share how investing in displaced or distressed kids can make a life changing difference.