Phuong was born in 1994 to a very poor farming family in a suburban district of Hanoi, Vietnam. The harvest from their land on the hill could not cover living expenses for a family of four which included her parents, herself and a younger sister. Her parents worked very hard to do what they could for their young family, even working for neighbors to earn extra money outside of their farming income. The hardship and physically-demanding lifestyle took its toll on her mother who died of exhaustion at the young age of 29, leaving Phuong, 7 and her 6-year old sister, motherless. Her father was unable to care for his two daughters, so Phuong and her sister were taken to an orphanage.
Phuong is very grateful to the orphanage for bringing her up and giving her a chance for a better life. During the 11 years she was cared for in an orphanage, Phuong was a good role model to the other orphans and her friends. She always helped younger children study, worked hard to take care of others and focused on her studies. Phuong’s dedication to her scholastics earned her high academic achievement and recognition from teachers and housemothers.
A big turning point in her life came in November 2005, when Phuong joined the Pearl S. Buck International, Vietnam child sponsorship program. Being matched with a Child Sponsor after experiencing such loss at a young age truly changed her life. Phuong said that knowing someone paid special attention to her and wanted to help her with their whole heart was the most wonderful feeling she had ever experienced. More importantly, she said she feels that she belongs to someone.
During her nine years in the child sponsorship program, Phuong wrote many letters to her Sponsors to share happiness, sadness and everything that happened in her life. The letters exchanged back and forth with her Sponsors bridged their distance and deepened their connection to each other. The correspondence proved to be a very big motivation for her to overcome difficulties in life and live well. Phuong has become so close to her Sponsors that she considers them family, and there is every indication that the feeling is mutual.
Phuong’s Sponsors designated a special scholarship fund for tutoring classes for her in high school to give her added support to study. Thanks to this special funding, Phuong passed the University entrance exam. She was the only child in the orphanage to pass the exam last year. This honor and recognition was a great source of pride for the orphanage,the staff at Pearl S. Buck International, her Sponsors and her family.
Phuong is now a first-year student at Hanoi University and dreams of becoming a vet. Beyond working hard for academic achievement, Phuong is motivated to make her Sponsors proud by being a good citizen; knowing she will have a better life in the future because of their support.
Child sponsorship does indeed open doors to opportunity, and in the case of Phuong, those doors are very wide. Phuong says that she will be forever grateful for her Sponsors’ support and the bond that resulted giving her an incredible sense of belonging.
Phuong’s Sponsors, Mary Ann and Paul Pfundtner, have sponsored numerous children since April 1989. They are very attuned to the needs of the children they sponsor. They wanted to make sure Phuong had extra funding to be tutored for success. Mary Ann passed away a little over a year ago, shortly after speaking with our Opportunity House Coordinator to set up the college education gift for Phuong. Her husband continues to sponsor Phuong as well as five other children. Their grown daughter, Wendy, is a teacher and corresponds with the sponsored children since Mary Ann’s passing.