Every afternoon, Thao Nguyen would take her two little sisters to go play on the front porch, attentively watching her sisters while longing to hear her parents’ usual call when they got back.
The firstborn's burden
A certified poor family in Nhu Xuan district, Thanh Hoa province, Thao Nguyen’s family did not have much farming land. Hence, her parents had to leave the kids at home with a neighbor to work as hirelings 30 kilometers away from home. On top of things, Thao Nguyen’s younger sister by two years, Ha Ngan, had a heart disease that required her to take medicine daily. Medical bills, along with other expenses, kept their parents working longer and longer hours.
Thao Nguyen (8 years old) was her little sister’s caretaker when their parents were away for work
Seeing her parents’ struggles, Thao Nguyen soon took on the role of a firstborn. Just turning eight, she was already an adept caretaker to her sisters: from giving medicine to feeding them meals, she did it all with patience and care beyond her years. But sometimes, the responsibilities could overwhelm the “little big sister.” While other kids went out to play, Thao Nguyen would come back home to tend to her sisters. Stress, along with lacking rest and social time, took a toll on her performance and confidence. She found it hard to keep up with the class and often retreated to her small corner. “I’m scared and sad when my parents are not home, but I still have my sisters to look after,” Thao Nguyen said timidly.
A helping hand goes a long way
Evaluating Thao Nguyen’s vulnerable situation, World Vision Viet Nam registered her the Sponsorship Program when she was three. Since then, Thao Nguyen’s family had a new friend – Ms. Cheeng Mee Ki, her sponsor from Hongkong. Every Lunar New Year, Thao Nguyen looked forward to receiving her cards and good wishes. “Whenever I get a card, I will tell Mom and ask her to help me write back and tell my Sponsor about my health and my schoolwork,” Thao Nguyen shared.
Since joining World Vision’s Sponsorship Program, Thao Nguyen would receive a greeting card from her sponsor in Hong Kong, Ms. Cheeng, every Lunar New Year. On such occasions, Mother would help her write back to Ms. Cheeng.
To help her family strengthen their financial situation and improve living conditions, World Vision supported Thao Nguyen’s parents with piglets, animal feeds, and vaccination, along with training on the closed-loop pig-raising model and financial literacy. Thanks to their diligent care and strict compliance with the dietary and vaccination schedule of the model, the family’s pigs survived the African swine fever outbreak back in 2020 and were re-herded shortly. With the additional income from selling the pigs, the parents were able to pay off Ha Ngan’s medical bills and buy new school supplies for the kids. In times like that, Thao Nguyen and her sisters were thrilled.
In 2020, Thao Nguyen’s family was registered in World Vision’s livelihood programs and received support to set up the closed-loop pig-raising model in their household.
Right to a happy childhood
After joining World Vision’s livelihood models, the financial stress was lessened on Thao Nguyen’s parents, allowing them to work at home and spend more quality time with their children. Since then, Ms. Dat, Thao Nguyen’s mother, had been participating in World Vision’s Saving group, where members, mostly women, are encouraged to contribute a small amount to the group’s commonwealth, which would serve for emergency expenses like the children’s tuition or vet medicine.
By contributing 50,000 VND (equivalent to 2 dollars) every month, Ms. Dat was deemed an active member and granted a loan of 4,000,000 VND (170 USD). With this initial “capital” and some borrowing from friends and family, Ms. Dat was able to buy a sewing machine and set up her tailoring business right at home. “I’m so glad because, with this sewing machine, I won’t have to work away from home anymore. I can stay to take care of the kids while tending to our livestock,” Ms. Dat shared.
With Mother’s love and care, Thao Nguyen was able to be her right age and thrived. From being “the one in charge,” Thao Nguyen was still Mother’s efficient little helper, but her main responsibility from then on was to play and study. With more time to focus on her schoolwork and participate in extra curriculum activities, Thao Nguyen was able to boost her performance and make more friends through World Vision’s Children’s Club.
“Thao Nguyen used to be quite reserved, and she was not doing very well in class. But she’s grown to be more open and confident, and she’s absorbing her lessons a lot faster. She loves reading with other kids and participating in our club’s activities,” Ms. Ninh, Head of Thao Nguyen’s Children’s Club, shared about her progress.
Thao Nguyen and Ha Ngan’s favorite chore must be helping her mother prepare dinner. After getting the chores done, Mother would show them how to do simple linework on the sewing machine.
With a bright smile, Thao Nguyen would spend her afternoon helping her mother prepare dinner. “I’m very happy because Mom is home to take care of us every day. I’m not too worried every time I help my sister take her medicine anymore,” she chirped. Showing off this year’s card from her sponsor, Thao Nguyen shared: “I want to thank Ms. Cheeng for the beautiful card. I hope that she and her family will have a good year.”
“We also want to send our gratitude to World Vision for helping our families. We will try our best to take care of our kids and give them a good education,” Ms. Dat added.