Toward the end of the summer, the young residents and staff of the Green Bamboo Shelter, a home for less fortunate kids where I spend a lot of time here in Saigon, myself, and quite a few others headed out on the annual trip. This year, it was to Mui Ne, the nicest strip of beaches nearest to Saigon, though still a bit of a trip at five hours. Once we reached the province of destination, Binh Thuan, our first stop was Ta Cu Mountain, a cable car, and a nice suprise at the top. These images were all captured on very expired monochrome 35mm film in an old Pentax camera I probably don’t use enough.
He was called Tai, and was about fourteen. Though a friendly and happy kid, I could tell he still had a lot of ‘street’ in him, and maybe wouldn’t stick around for too long. Sure enough, he stayed for a little while before and after the trip, one day just disappeared with another boy, not to be heard of since. I like it more when I’m proven wrong and they stay.
A cable car carried us to the top of the mountain, thankfully. I had no intentions of reaching the top otherwise.
Linh, sixteen. He was around for a while in 2008, returned home for a year or more, and recently has come back to the shelter and the city to find better work than is availible in the rural provinces where many come from. This same hope of employment and money is the draw for most of the boys who come to the city looking for something better, and often end up on the streets instead.
At the top of the mountain, is the largest such statue in Vietnam, the Buddha Entering Nirvana.
Locals offer their prayers upon reaching the pagoda at the top.
These reminded me of prayer flags that I saw all over Tibet a few years ago.
This is Tam, eight. He arrived at the shelter not long after I did in the summer of 2007, and we’ve spent a great deal of time together since. Being the youngest, he’s been very much like a son to me, and I hope I can know him long enough for him to have a good future.
After we left the mountain, we headed on toward the coast. Across the road, is a massive spread of sand dunes, ripe for sledding and play.
Phong, fifteen. A little after this trip, he returned home to Cu Chi, which is a rural district several hours out, though officially still part of the city. He visits sometimes, and is doing well I believe. He’s been a good friend for quite a while too. Even though the goal is for them to reinegrate with their family, and it’s great that it can happen when it does, I’m still sad to see them leave.
Luong, fifteen. He’s from the north of Vietnam, but has been at the shelter in Saigon for more than a year now, goes to school and is doing well.
Sang, eleven. He showed up at the shelter with a few friends earlier this year, and we were good friends from day one. He stayed seemingly happily for several months, but not long after this trip, took to the streets again with Tai, above. Sang returned again after a few weeks. I was very happy, and thought he was. But yet again, on the day I returned from Burma, just before I arrived at the shelter to visit everyone and deliver requested gifts, he went out with another young boy whom I had known there for several years. Whereabouts are completely uknown for both.
Binh, seventeen. He’s recently moved back in with his mother, is a cook at a five star hotel, and doing great.
Phuoc, fifteeen. I’ve also known him for several years, always seen with a smile and laugh. He’s only in third grade because he got a very late start. He’s doing very well, but I worry before too long he’ll get old enough, or discouraged attending school with others half his age, and just want to give up study for work. At least for now, the staff and I are doing what we can to keep him in school.
From: Unknown To: Everyone
There were many others present as well, all with stories of their own, but I guess somehow avoided my lens on this trip.
Any proceeds from the sale of these images will go directly to the shelter and the boys who call it home for now. Just click any image for prints, gifts or downloads. Perhaps you could get a Christmas gift for your friends and mine at the same time! Please feel free to reach me if you would like to know more about the shelter, or how to help. If you ever find yourself in Saigon, stop in to say hello and see what great kids they are when they have help, friends, and education.