At age 13, Van Anh carries the world on her shoulders.
Van Anh’s family, from the Black Thai ethnic community in the northern mountains of Vietnam, has always been poor. Their home is a makeshift tent with a bamboo frame. The winters are freezing and the plastic covers barely keep the rain out.
Blue Dragon met Van Anh earlier this year, shortly after her father had died. Her situation seemed almost too terrible to be real.
Her mother, Thuy, works far from home and can rarely visit – a day’s rest means no income, and no income means no food.
Van Anh has an older sister who has an intellectual impairment. She’s never had any education or any assessment of her abilities. Before and after school every day, Van Anh looks after her sister as best she can.
Despite all the hardships of her life, Van Anh has done her best to continue with her schooling. After the Lunar New Year holiday in February this year, she didn’t return to class because she just couldn’t afford to – but that was when we met her, and she’s been happily back at her studies since then.
Van Anh’s whole family is clearly facing very special hardship. And so, along with helping out Van Anh and her sister and mother with their health, education, and livelihood, several months ago we had some more great news. A wonderful donor agreed to pay for a whole new house to be built for the family, at a cost of about $3,300.
Van Anh and her mother Thuy were thrilled at the offer of help. A new house! With a proper roof, stable electricity, and a solid floor!
But despite their initial excitement, the whole project stalled very quickly.
Thuy was simply overwhelmed with all that needed to be done. She needed to find land where she could build, and of course complete some paperwork with the local government. Even with Blue Dragon’s support, it all seemed too much.
And so Blue Dragon called together the local community and explained the problem: “Van Anh’s family is in need of help. We have the money to build a house, but that’s not enough. They need moral support. Help to find the land and fill in the paperwork. In short, they need the whole village to work with them on this.”
In a single day everything changed.
The community saw what they needed to do and threw their support behind the family. Some of their help has been very practical – like helping Thuy decide how she wants the new house to be designed and talk to the village leaders about her plans.
Most of the help, though, is much less tangible. By having the community show their support, Thuy now has the confidence to move ahead. She no longer feels overwhelmed or incapable: she’s surrounded by people willing to help.
Last week, construction on the new house began. It’s just a start, and in a few months time Van Anh will have a whole new home to live in along with her mother and sister.
Van Anh has grown up with a level of hardship that most of us could not imagine. Now the future is finally looking better, and it took support from around the world, as well as close to home, to make this change.
Like the saying goes, it really does take a village.