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Relevant issues for this story, separated by commas (eg. war, race, gender):
Poverty, Human Rights
Geographical region for this story (eg. Africa, Middle East, Southeast Asia):
Asia, Southeast Asia
Relevant key words for this story, separated by commas (eg. Africa, Hurricane Katrina, Mother Teresa):
Homelessness, Migration, Youth, Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City, Children, Megacity, Urban Migration
A short summary for this story that will go on the stories page (1-2 sentences):
Vietnam and especially Ho Chi Minh City, is booming economically. A large contingency of the poor, like Duong, a 13 year-old-boy, live off the charity of others. 
Michel Fortier

1996 — student runner-up

Asian gangs have become the rule rather than the exception in many Asian communities in the U.S. My own community in Kentucky has seen a group calling themselves the “Tiny Rascals.” The gangs flourish with ever increasing numbers. Cambodian, Laotian, and Vietnamese children as young as nine suffer through a ritual beating to join the gang where many of their older siblings are members. I am attempting to discover why the “Tiny Rascals” choose to leave behind their culture and family, replacing it with their own” group” solidarity. I am an Asian studies minor and I have studied the Asian and Cambodian communities here for some time. My Asian cultural studies are taking me to study at Ho Chi Minh University in Vietnam for four months where I will document teenagers in both north and south Vietnam.

My goal is to discover and document the reasons why Vietnamese teenagers reject culture and family and what similarities they may have to Vietnamese teenagers in the United States, especially those in the “Tiny Rascals”.

My hope is to find similarities between the two groups that will help society understand the importance culture plays in the family, community and the development of children within society.

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About the size of an 8-year-old, Duong, now 13, came to Ho Chi Minh City with the intention of making a living using the shoe shine box he's sitting on. Michel Fortier/Alexia Foundation
Most of the residents find him and his kind a nuisance. Duong walks 12 or more kilometers a day on his paper route, and sometimes more if he's allowed to go shine shoes in the afternoon. Michel Fortier/Alexia Foundation
Often intimidated and scared by the big city, Duong sought help and a place to live that would keep him from having to sleep on the streets at night worrying about his money. The safe-house he lives in provides shelter for six other boys of similar age and predicament. Michel Fortier/Alexia Foundation
A passing woman grabs Duong, scolding him for skipping school, not realizing he attends class at night. Duong and the others in the shelter program are made to wear special shirts distinguishing them from other street children not in the program. Children not involved in some kind of program are likely to be incarcerated by Ho Chi Minh City police. Michel Fortier/Alexia Foundation
Vietnam and especially Ho Chi  Minh City, is booming economically. A large contingency of poor, like Duong, live off the charity of others. Children of the new middle class often look down or with curiosity at Duong. Michel Fortier/Alexia Foundation
Comfort from a friend helps Duong make it through another tough day. Although 13, Duong is mentally on the level of a first-grade student and doesn't always understand the world around him. After five months, he's still learning the "trade" and the smarts it takes to survive on the street. Michel Fortier/Alexia Foundation
Rebellious, Duong often sneaks out or refuses to come back at night.  His latest night out yields a black eye and stolen funds. With no official drinking age, many of the homeless children treat alcohol as a release from the pains of daily life. Michel Fortier/Alexia Foundation
After returning home from a morning's newspaper sales, Duong is told he's short 10,000 Dong or approximately one US dollar. He lifts his shirt to show he hasn't hidden the missing funds, equal to a day's profit.

Putting up a fight, Duong urges that all his funds be recounted. The money once thought missing was found and Duong received his profits for the day's work. Michel Fortier/Alexia Foundation
A stranger pays the 30 cent fee for Duong and a few other street kids to ride on the merry-go-round. Pleasure soon turns to sadness, however, as Duong contemplates his past and present situation. Michel Fortier/Alexia Foundation
Dong, left, has made a few friends in the five months he's lived on the streets in Saigon. His small size (his companion on the right is 8-years-old) is a disadvantage on the street and he often looses his money to larger kids. Michel Fortier/Alexia Foundation