Ngo Van Ky, a former prisoner, recently came to Tuoi Tre office and shared his life-changing story as for the first time in 27 years, a person has treated him with respect and given him the second chance to turn over a new leaf.
Ky, 38, has spent 27 years going in and out of prison. Riddled with tattoos, the weather-beaten, haggard-looking man recounted his sad life story, which began with his tough childhood.
When Ky was young, his family moved to Ho Chi Minh City and took shelter on the sidewalk. He was first admitted to a local youth rehabilitation center when he was 12, and became a gangster three years after.
After being bailed out by his family, he left home for Lam Dong province in the Central Highlands, where he led a mob and stole from local hotels.
At 18, when he was released from prison, he was set on starting his life afresh. However, as his parents died soon after that and no one employed him, he resumed his crime life to support himself and provide for his two younger siblings.
“My brothers, who were drug addicts, died some years ago. I’m now married with two young daughters, but my wife is a gambler. This time I’m determined to turn over a new leaf, working as a “xe om” (taxi motorbike) driver to support my kids, but things are frustratingly difficult,” Ky shared.
Since his last prison release six months ago, he has taken some 20 menial, low-paid jobs as a porter, market janitor and motorbike parking attendant over the past six months. But after a few days, as discrimination set in among customers when they knew he was a former prisoner, the employers all sacked him. Even his “xe om” clients are also reluctant to ride with him though he offers low prices.
He resists the tempting offers from his “comrades”, which means his returning to crime life.
The hand that reaches out
At his most desperate moment, Ky decided to try his luck, venturing into the Ward 10 People’s Committee of Tan Binh district to see if they could help him in some way. There he met Nguyen Thi Thanh, chair of the ward’s Red Cross Society.
“I told her my life story, but was convinced that wouldn’t help. However, to my great surprise, Thanh listened carefully and shared with me like I’m her family. Along with the advice, encouragement and offers of help, she also gifted me some kgs of rice and milk and wrote me an invitation to a workshop of her Red Cross Society branch.”
“This is the first invitation to a formal meeting I’ve received. If only I had met Thanh earlier and some other people had treated me with respect like that, I would have been ‘awakened’ and steered clear of crimes a long time ago,” Ky added.
When the Tuoi Tre reporter met Thanh at her office, Thanh was really surprised that the man who came to her that day is so moved that he told the reporter about her action.
“If I’d had more money on me that day, I would have given it to him. I’m not credulous, but I think that it’s better that I help a bad person than skipping helping good, desperate people just because I don’t believe in them. During my 14 years working as a Red Cross Society agent, I’ve always tried to help those in need to the best of my ability,” Thanh shared.
She planned to find Ky a job where people won’t discriminate against him. Ky, who now sometimes offers free rides to poor passengers, is seeing a brighter road ahead.