In 2004, the 15-year-old stepped off the bus in Hanoi with $1 in his pocket, no change of clothes and no job. His mother had died after a long illness and his father had fled the village, leaving three young children in the care of an aunt.
For a year, Chinh slept in alleys or in 20-cents-a night rooms. He spent his days shining businessmen’s shoes and earning about $2 a day. The money he sent to his family enabled one of the sisters to enrol in accountancy at a university in Hanoi.
And then Chinh met Michael Brosowski, the Director of Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation. Blue Dragon offered to help Chinh with his schooling and since then, he hasn’t looked back.
Eventually, Chinh became a social worker for Blue Dragon. Last year, he was offered the chance to take up a ten-week scholarship sponsored by the Taupo Language and Outdoor Education Centre.
Once he got used to things like the cold weather, the automatic car wash and the lawn mower, Chinh thrived in Taupo. As well as improving his English, he went white-water rafting and skydiving. He also played tennis and travelled with his homestay family.
“I had a really great homestay and made a lot of good friends in Taupo. I had an amazing time,” Chinh says.
Back at Blue Dragon, where he is still employed as a social worker, Chinh is hoping to win a scholarship to study at an Australian university.
“I want to study communications at university and then return to Vietnam to work in an NGO,” Chinh says.