Miloš Nguyen

It all began in 1986, when I was born. After that I was, so to speak, moved between all sorts of institutions. Here in Most, there in Loun, for still another few years in Jiřík, to end up in the children’s home in Krásné-Lípa. From a special school in Jiřík I now had waiting for me the Krásno-Lipská elementary school, with therefore the vision of a better future.  At the “elementary school” I experienced some difficult moments, I wasn ‘t very good at maths and physics, but then again czech language and history were my strongest subjects. At twelve years old – a child by then despised by a series of  “aunts”- I ended up in the psychiatric hospital in Loun for a period of three months. Being bullied was the order of the day, with never any request from the nurse for them to stop. My correspondence was regularly controlled. But I got through it, I returned to the home with a statement stating that there had been no need for me to be in there in the first place, that the “aunts” in my children’s home should do things in a clearer way . . . That things should be simplified.

At the turn of this century, almost from one day to another, they changed all the governesses with the exception of one – Jana Volencová. Suddenly everything started to turn around and things started to go better for me, in school and in the home. Right at this turning point I began to correspond with the magazine for children’s homes called Zámeček, in which “my” first song was published. From that moment I became the Zámeček’s correspondent in Krásné Lipa.
With my increasing age there awaits the choice of high school and with this also the decision as to whether I will travel daily to the not-far-off Varnsdorf. I chose, according to my inclination, the field of hospitality and tourism at high school.
Before I began high school I became one of three children representing children’s homes at the National Parliament of Children and Youth in Prague.
At high school my interests where focused on work related to children’s self-government in children’s homes, of which I was the “head”. Our self-government in the children’s homes was not afraid to deal with such things as lack of food, being hit around the head by the “aunts” and other thorny problems. I have to say that, whilst investigating these matters, we had a relatively free hand   -  though, however, we did not reach an agreement with the directors concerning the “aunts”. The self-government had four members, three representatives of family groups and a “head”.
My time at Varndorf school passed terribly quickly. It was a very pleasant experience to be among a different kind of people than I had known until then.
In the first year of high school I met a life-changing man, Pavel Vacka from České Budějovice, the “Sponsor “ of our children’s home. He was my dear friend, with whom I enjoyed spending my free time. Today that good man is unfortunately no longer with us. During my stay in the home I met a string of good-hearted people, but also people with less good intentions, which is, as we know, just life.
The home in Krásné Lípa is very rich, with above standard furnishings and a wide choice of offers to travel in both the Czech Republic and abroad, in winter and in summer. Stays in Cyprus, Egypt, Mallorca, Tunisa and dozens of other places were not unknown to us. . . The same as, in the last little while, children regularly go skiing to the Italian Dolomites. This, of course, has a darker side to it as well – children are not well enough prepared, with this inexhaustible “ richness “, for the reality of leaving the children’s home. Childhood should be amazing, but if the “ child “ isn’t, at 18 years, old capable of organizing anything, it is of course a problem. This is a basic failing of many homes, not only of ours. I have the distinct feeling that we floated through our daily regime exactly, to the last letter, as it had been written by our interior board.
That included our arrival to school, lunch, preparing for school (homework), afternoon snack, free time in the garden after our snack, sometimes a walk around the neighbourhood, our short free time period before dinner, the cleaning of the governesses areas after dinner, showering after finishing the cleaning and then just sitting watching television. The night governess ( a special assistant teacher ) then took over from the daytime one. The weekends were only different in that there was no school and we could organise day-trips or we went into Prague to attend an event.
I will try to write briefly how we underwent the process of leaving the home at Krásné Lípa. The actual preparation that I imagined, that the governesses would already begin at 15 years old, is instead begun only around two months, or sometimes less, before leaving the home and in this way the home fails us considerably.
Our home provided children with a partially financial and partially material severance packet. Yet many times it occurred that children did not receive this “ severance “ in it’s full amount, as it is written in the law of institutional education. This legal loophole, when the homes can, but do not have to, pay 15 000 thousand crowns, often causes strange peculiarities in this kind of decision-making  –  including  the incomprehensible likelihood that the child is given nothing. These powers are given regardless of the fact that these loopholes always offer the tempting possibility of misusing this authority. The home in Krásna Lípa places children who did not get on with their biological families into a dubious halfway house in the nearby village after leaving. I had the chance to look in it and I marveled the while on how a children’s home can send any child to that kind of facility. But it is true that many a child ended up there. We are talking about dirty, smelly strange people inhabiting the facility that was run by one charity.
And what about me? What were my experiences after leaving the home?
I am glad that I did not end up in that undignified environment of the halfway house. My journey, thank god, took a different direction. I left the home on the 4th of June 2007, a few days after successfully completing my graduation exams. The Board of Education approved the financial amount of eight thousand crowns for me on condition that I spent the money on clothing. So that is what I did. I only had 150kč  left in my pocket as spending money and 26 000kč in a savings account at the Blue pyramids.  I managed to get to this money after about14 days, because the cancellation of the savings and the subsequent transfer of the money to a current  account takes at least two weeks. Unfortunately.
From September 2007 I joined the first year at the Metropolitan University in Prague. During the first year I lived with friends in Čelákovice and therefore commuted to Prague every day. Martin and Tereza, with whom I had once met earlier in the home, offered me a room and didn ‘t even want any rent money plus they also helped me financially when it was necessary. I was so lucky that I had these good people. After a year at the Metropolitan University  and in Čelákovice, I decided to move to Prague and pay rent with housemates in Smíchov, Prague 5.  One room cost me 7 thousand crowns a month, which was for me a huge amount. At that time I was working as a trainee in the Secretariat of the Deputy Mayor’s office in the district of Prague 1, where I earned around eight thousand crowns. It was now of the utmost importance to find different accommodation. I turned to the civic association Vhled ( Insight ), which operates at the Centrum Sámovka ( Prague’s halfway house). I went to meet Mrs. Dana Malá, the director of Sámovka , who offered me a 1+1 in Vršovice, Prague 10. Since that time I  pay only 3 000kč a month for a fully furnished flat.  In December of 2010 I moved to a different flat in Bubeneč, Prague 7, which also belongs to the Centrum Sámovka, where I pay the same amount of rent.
I only have one year left at university. Student life is slowly but surely coming to an end . . .
The first year after leaving the home I worked as a trainee in a variety of places, mainly at Tesco, Kaufland, Billa, basically wherever possible – or where my employment agencies sent me.
After a year of working in the supermarkets, I started as a trainee at the Town Hall of Prague 1. Then I had the chance to try directing a project in a non-profit organisation named The Mikuláš Information Centre. I was responsible for the project “ The Popularization of Foster Care “. The following year I was already at ING Commercial Banking in the department of Marketing and PR. It was an amazing experience to be in the environment of such a well-known institution.
In the year 2011 I returned to the Town Hall in Prague 1, this time to the Department of Transport. Therefore I have had, on the whole, a lot of work experience in a relatively short time. They are valuable experiences that will still be of use to me in life. I believe that, after finishing university, I will find longer-term employment and a better opportunity to make a lot more money.
After my leaving Krásné Lípa  I became intensively involved in the charitable activities of the civic association of Duha Zámeček , who publish the magazine Zámeček for children from children’s homes which I regularly write for. In the second project of this association, named “Správná Pětka” (The correct five), we travel with children from five different children’s homes to north Moravia for adventure weekends. We spend the Easter, summer and autumn holidays together, also including the Christmas period. The aim of Správné pětky is to provide the children with many unforgettable experiences and at the same time teach them practical skills, so that that can use these skills later in the real world  -  when the time comes for them to leave the their children’s home. As I did.