Vietnam 2013 trip diary: Mai’s story


By Lynn Broadbent
Fairfax, VA chapter member

Since our group split up to visit the women in the Children of Vietnam program, here are a few notes from Group Three’s meetings. The beneficiaries in our group were: Mai, Nhung, Mui, Trang, Chi, Dao, Bich, and Ha.

This is Mai’s story.

Mai has been in the Empowering Women Program since 2009. She is a hairdresser. Her husband abandoned her and their two sons when they were very young – something that seems to be very common in Vietnam. Empowering Women gave her a low-interest loan so she could upgrade her hairdressing tools and since then her income has tripled. Her two boys are now 18 and 12, and she is able to keep them in school on her income. The older boy is helping out by waiting tables in a coffee shop.

We visited Mai’s tiny home which also serves as her shop. It is one very small room downstairs, with just enough room for a hair washing sink and chair for the client. Upstairs there is a sleeping area for the three of them and tiny water closet. Since there was no room for us to sit inside, we sat out on the busy narrow street, next to the ice cutting shop. Mai served us melon seeds and warm water.There were birds singing in cages, motorbikes buzzing up and down the street, neighbors strolling by to see what we were doing. While we were visiting, her older son came home from school. His name is Trung and he is a very good student, and wants to be a doctor. He taught himself English and speaks it quite well. Mai is determined that her children will not suffer from a lack of education as she has. She will sell her house if necessary to ensure that Trung can go to university. Happily, Children of Vietnam has a program which can provide scholarships for children of beneficiaries and Trung will be eligible if he does well in the entrance exams.