Hanoi, Vietnam (CNN) - Five years ago, Pham Binh Minh was a 15-year-old spending his nights on the streets of Hanoi, Vietnam's capital.
With his father dead and his mother too poor to adequately feed or clothe him, Pham survived by collecting and selling scrap.
"I didn't have time to make friends," he said. "The friends I did have ... would take me to do work that wasn't good. ... We would rob and steal from people. ... I was scared I would get arrested. I was scared people would hit me. I felt unsafe."
It's an all-too-common story in Hanoi, where many Vietnamese youth - often poor children from outside the city - seek opportunity. If they're lucky, they're able to get by working odd jobs such as shining shoes or selling trinkets.
"Kids come to the streets hoping that it'll be better than living in poverty in the countryside, but often they find that things are much worse for them here," said Michael Brosowski, whose nonprofit foundation helps Vietnamese street children turn their lives around.
It was through Brosowski's Blue Dragon Children's Foundation that Pham was able to graduate high school and enroll in college. Since 2004, Blue Dragon has helped more than 350 Vietnamese children get off the streets and into school.