I met her for the first time at an old brick kiln. She was a little girl, and surprised me by showing me of all the pictures of lotus flowers hanging on the walls of her small room.
On the day I went to pick her up to come live with the OBV family, she looked up at me and said 'I stayed up last night waiting for you'. And she gave me some origami stars. I wondered how she could still be so full of energy, so full of life, and have such a colourful and positive outlook for her future.
an old article...
Her mom and her at OBV house
After the first home visit, and many phone calls, words of encouragement and job recommendations in the city for a mother to be closer to her daughter, the family remain stubborn as a rock. We had tried every thing, every way.... But we decided to return to this family, since we still had one ray of hope, Mr. T from a volunteer group.
Back at the family house, we continued to try and persuade them, while listening to them share their concerns with us. The grandparents didn't want the young girl leaving for the big city as they would miss her. Her uncle blamed the mother for not being responsible for caring for her and leaving her with strangers. They were all afraid rumours of them giving their child away to an orphanage might start. Patiently, Mr. T explained all the benefits if she could come live with One Body Village, and compared the education offered in the big city of Saigon compared to what was available in the quiet town of Long An. She definitely would be able to have proper education and a better living environment.
The grandparents, however, remained unshakable. The mother was very eager to have her daughter move to the big city, but at the same time, she only wished for her parents to agree and approve of the decision. The grandfather sat quietly, deep in thought as the first drops of rain started to fall from the grey sky. Finally, he allowed the mother of the little girl to decide for her future. We returned to the city in the middle of a heavy tropical storm. The rain was much heavier and followed us all the way home. The raining water flowed strong, yet couldn't flush away our worries for the future of the little girl.
The mother called me the following morning. "I don't think my daughter will move to the city. Please forgive me. My family has decided not to let her go." I bitterly remained quiet.
But she called back a short while later, and asked me whether it was too late to change her mind. Of course it was never too late, it would be our pleasure to have this little girl join us!
We welcomed her and her little girls at our office and gave them a tour of the school and our home. She repeatedly told us her life story, her failures. She hoped for her daughter to be given a good education, a brighter future. Time would prove this.
It continued to rain, from early morning through til sunset. After having lunch at the office, we made the trek to our home, to prepare a space for the newest member. We split into 2 groups: one would head to school and register her as a new student, while the other group would take mother and daughter shopping for items needed at home.
All kids love to buy things, so I asked "what did you buy at the supermarket?" upon their return.
"I didn't buy anything, just looking," she replied.
Even though all kids love candy, cookies, toys...the mother kept reminder her daughter in a low voice "you must spend your money reasonably. Never ask for anything. Mrs L. here is purchasing a lot of items for you to use at the house. She's spent a lot of money". Listening to the conversation, I pretended not to hear, and sat silently watching her reaction. Her eyes greedily looked at all the toys and candy, yet she demonstrated a great sense of self control. Before leaving, i bought 2 colourful covers for her notebooks, and a small doll made of clay to be used as a paper weight, and gave them to her...
First day of school
It was her first day of afternoon classes, and her first time ever learning a foreign language.
"How was school? Is it fun?" I asked
Yeah, a lot of fun
"Do you understand what your teacher said in the foreign language?"
No! she laughed
"Did you make any new friends?"
Yes, we bought stuff and played with them
"Well, it takes time to make lots of friends"
Her first day of school
I checked her exercise book for her foreign languages class (English), where she had remembered one single thing: Good morning.
'You'll have to try really hard when learning a foreign language," I told her
She's been with us for two days now.
I pray for a bright future for her.
Translated by Jacqueline Huynh and Mr. Phung. The original version in Vietnamese entitled "Long An - Hành Trình Không Còn Buồn"
an old article...
It was a beautiful Sunday morning when I met her and her mother, Mrs. V. for the first time. The bright weather couldn't hide the shyness in the eyes of this littler girl. Mrs. V, with tears in her eyes, looked downwards as she started to tell their story....
She had run into bad luck with her first marriage, her husband leaving her when she fell pregnant. But she persevered, and clenching her teeth, she gave birth to a daughter, and raised her as best she could. Her second marriage was to a motorcycle taxi driver only a few years ago (the motorcycle taxi is a common means of transportation in Vietnam, where a driver rides a motorcycle instead of a car to provide transportation for a customer. "Xe om" in Vietnamese). And thus, the tragedy began...
Entering the dormitory at the end of the day, watching shadows bounce off the walls, I couldn't see see anything at first, but I could hear her greeting -- a little girl that I had picked up last week. The clear voice came from a small figure with a joyful smile.
Her life had been nothing.
One thing after another
Adding to her grief
A father who rejected her at birth.
Muong La was her nick name given by sisters, half out of love, half out of teasing.
She had been living in the OBV house for four months now. She integrated herself quite quickly and became and new loving sister. She was happy and she cared for those around her, always ready to lend a hand to her sisters. She lived to the tune and spirit of OBV. Besides these positives, she of course doubted herself from time to time, but was told not to worry, and to simply work on the weaknesses she felt needed improving, with OBV as her companion.
She was a little child, whose story made us cry non-stop for most of our trip to Malaysia. She had been there for two years, and in those two years, she had made new friends, but had also seen the same friends go home while she remained in a foreign country. Her hopes to return home had long evaporated since she had lost all of her personal documents and identification. She was excited to receive the good news that she was finally able to return to her motherland.
Welcome back! And now we begin the journey for you to rediscover your self value and worth.
April 13, 2017
Translated by Jacqueline Huynh and Mr. Phung. The Vietnamese original version in FB of NCHP
At 6.30am, from our office in District 3, a group of 5 people boarded our minibus of 17 seats and started the long journey to Vinh Long. Along the way, we picked up a columnist for a local newspaper, whose articles featured stories about Life and Law.
We made it to a brick kiln, where we met a little girl of 11 years old, and her grandmother, both crouched in a small room. Her grandfather and father had both been incarcerated. She was one of the lucky ones, who would be picked up to join the OBV family in Saigon.
Taking the girls in the warm shelter to the bicycle shop to buy a new one
After coming back from Tay Ninh Province Department of Education and Training, we prepared for T. to go to the city and went to the Department of Education and Training in Ho Chi Minh City to finish her formality to move to the new school.
Two days after sending her documents to the department, we were called to add temporary residence certificate for T. Coming to the ward office to ask for that, I was told to come to area office at night. At 20:00, I went there, all the police had gone for their work and weren’t there. I asked the police we met in the morning and were told to buy a temporary residence notebook and leave it there; whenever the police come back, they will sign the notebook (if he had told me about that when I first met him to ask for the temporary residence document, I wouldn’t have to go there several times)
After confirming that the principal of Nguyen Van Troi Hig¬h School had come back after his trip, I phoned an OBV’s worker, asking to go with me to Tay Ninh to finish the formality for attending a new school for NT. How lucky it was that that friend got a day off, so we went to Tay Ninh together.
We departed on 7:30 A.M. I almost forgot to bring along my camera to take photos during the trip.
It seemed to be sunnier than last time, but it wasn’t too hot. We were going on the streets with green rice fields on both sides. It made us feel pleasant to enjoy the sight. Suddenly, my partner saw a peaceful sight: a stork standing on a buffalo. My partner told me to stop for a little while to take a photo of that great moment.
Her old school…
After leaving Tay Ninh, we moved to the next part of our journey directly. That was searching for a high school for T. to study at. Thanks to prayers of lots of people, we found out a high school in Sai Gon that agreed to receive her. But because she was in grade 10, formality to attend a new school was difficult.
After coming to ask at the Department of Education and Training in Ho Chi Minh City, I was told to ask for a permission letter given by a Principal of a high school in Ho Chi Minh City, and then a recommendation letter from the Principal of the school the girl was studying at. I went to the Department of Education and Training in Tay Ninh Province along with all of the documents about her educational progress to ask for permission to let her study in Ho Chi Minh City.