In 2009, Evelyn Nguyen moved to Vietnam to start a business. During the two years that she lived there, she met quite a few expatriates who also understood the extreme poverty problems the country faced. They created an informal group to raise funds and solicit volunteers. They visited various orphanages, learned of their operations, and contributed help wherever help was needed. Most of the assistance they provided covered basic needs – food, over-the-counter medication, and school supplies.
She has continued that work even upon returning to the United States. Ms. Nguyen makes occasional trips to Vietnam to visit different orphanages, play with the children, and provide basic financial assistance. She has even helped build homes and teach people skills so they could become financially independent. Since she is not part of a formal group, Ms. Nguyen does everything herself – she meets with and talks to each individual and orphanage, accesses their needs, and comes up with a plan for long-term sustainability. On her most recent trip, Ms. Nguyen was able to gift 50 Lunar New Year (Tết ) gifts to students from extremely poor families and sponsor 10 children so they could attend school for one year.
For Ms. Nguyen, charity began at home. Her family had very little when they first immigrated to the United States, but her parents made room to welcome new immigrants in their already-crowded home and helped them in whatever way possible. Ms. Nguyen models her behavior after her parents’ generosity.
Ms. Nguyen is currently working with two friends – one in Vietnam and one in the United States – to help the poor in Vietnam. They are setting up leather workshops and staffing it with victims of domestic abuse and young people who are now too old to live in orphanages. She is teaching them marketable skills so they too can become independent entrepreneurs like her and eventually give back to the community.