“I think he was told it was dangerous in the outside world.” These are the words of our foster carer, Sue who is looking after a teenage Vietnamese boy who was human trafficked.
Sue has been caring for the 16-year-old in her west end home, helping him to adapt to life in a big city and ensuring his safety.
Despite the difficulties – the main being a language barrier – Chris* is now at college learning English, has a group of friends, and is enjoying life in Glasgow.
An incredible transformation from when Chris arrived in the city after fleeing his capturers.
Chris hardly left his room and was terrified for the first four months. Sue explains: “It has been very challenging but a great learning curve for us both. He didn’t know yes from no when he arrived, he had no English at all.
“We used cards and Google translate to communicate. He was terrified and didn’t want to leave the house at all for about the first three to four months. He thought someone was going to come and get him all the time.
“Chris wasn’t used to traffic and noise of a city. He was probably told it was dangerous in the outside world and the police would be looking for him, and people were violent. He ran away from the traffickers so it must have been very difficult indeed for him to adapt.”
Sue has spent time working with Chris to ensure he knew he was safe. They always ate meals together and over time he would watch TV with Sue instead of going to his room.
It wasn’t until November 2017 when Chris finally visited Byres Road with Sue and her birth-daughter that he began to enjoy life in Glasgow.
After the first visit Sue and Chris began travelling into the city to Buchanan Galleries and St Enoch Centre. Eventually Chris knew his way to and from the city enough to travel on his own.
Sue added: “He joined a youth group and met other young Vietnamese teenagers, before this I had to accompany him for quite a long time, even to classes, right up until Christmas.
“Now he can self-travel and go to college and his English is coming on. He is learning some maths and budgeting skills and working towards independence. So in 14 months he’s turned from a terrified young person with no English speaking skills, to a typical teenage boy.
“He has lots of self-esteem, he’s quite trendy, and he has friends. He’s never in anymore. It’s wonderful, it is like watching someone completely unfold.
“Chris is a lovely kind person, he is so polite and brilliant with animals. He hasn’t got a bad bone in his body.”
Not much is known about Chris’ life but he was raised until the age of eight or nine by his mum in Vietnam. Although they were ‘very poor’ according to Sue, his mother taught him how to be a ‘decent human’, despite all the horror he has witnessed in between.
Sue has been fostering for over 20 years and has looked after over 30 children, however, she admits working with Chris was her biggest challenge.
In Scotland there is need for 550 foster carers at the moment, according to The Fostering Network.
It’s a rewarding role, but Sue does believe anyone who wishes to foster must be realistic on the possible impacts and be prepared for them.
She said: “You need to be ready for challenges and be realistic about the impacts it could have on your own family, and yourself. Make sure you have a good support network, even if that’s just over the phone.
“You need to have a sense of humour and be strong and firm. It’s also helpful if you can relate to each child and remember what it was like to be their age – to be a confused teenager and a little bit insecure.
“I think we all want to have perfect childhoods, but sadly that’s not always possible.”
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