Global Action Awards Honoree 2004
Chi Nguyen has dedicated herself to helping street children in Vietnam. She has held benefit concerts and sold her homemade almond toffee to raise over $31,000 to help Vietnamese children who have been abandoned. Working together with the Vietnam Health Education and Literature Projects, her fund-raising efforts have resulted in providing clothing, meals, literacy classes and basic medical needs for more than 100 orphans.
MY HERO asked Chi to explain her motivation for helping the street children in Vietnam. She shared her very personal reasons for becoming involved:
My parents have always told me about the history of Vietnam, how they lived and how their friends lived...stories of really impoverished people, people who didn't have food every day, people who had to skip school to go help their families out and make some money. The stories touched me so much that I started these projects. My parents also told me stories of their childhood there and of their friends who had gotten killed by landmines.
When asked to describe what it was that the kids made her feel, Chi responded:
|Street children in Vietnam|
Photo from www.vnhelp.org
Well, I met the street children in 1999 when I went to Vietnam. They told me stories and we played games and became kind of a family, and the camaraderie caused me to come back here. I knew I wanted to help them because they were such bright kids and they were so motivated.
MY HERO asked Chi if she really felt that she could help. She was quick to reply:
I believe that I have. I am now the sole sponsor of the Street Children’s Shelter in Vietnam.
When Chi was asked about what kind of feedback she has received from the kids, she replied:
|Chi at the Dieu Giac orphanage|
Photo from www.globalactionawards.org
I don’t think they realize to what extent I’m funding their program. I don’t necessarily need the feedback. I went there last summer and saw them again and that was rewarding enough in itself.
Chi reflected on what the street children have taught her and how they have inspired her:
The kids have inspired me by the simple fact that in my life I complain about things like how much homework I have, and, oh well, that dinner wasn’t too great mom. And these kids -- their level of desperation and poverty is so much greater than anything I can imagine and they don’t complain.
When asked if she thought about the deeper issues of poverty in the world, Chi answered honestly and practically:
For me, poverty in the world is too big an issue to actually focus on and to think that I can do something about it. I am just starting wherever I can and this is a cause that is close to me. I feel very connected to it, so this is where I have started.
Here is what Chi had to say when MY HERO asked her what she would tell other kids about taking a chance, getting involved and making a difference:
Photo from www.vnhelp.org
Just go out there and find something you really love to do and make it into a project. If you love playing basketball, then you can work with kids who play basketball and who maybe aren’t doing so well in school. There are so many causes out there that you can work on.
Chi's heart for the street children of Vietnam and her efforts to improve their plight through education make her a real life hero to people of all ages. MY HERO asked Chi to talk about who inspires her:
My hero would be Mahatma Gandhi just because I can never imagine having that much courage in my life and I think it takes incredible courage to be able to stand up and to fight, but with a quiet sort of strength and not like a violent energy.
Chi explained where she draws her strength from to help her overcome obstacles to her work:
In my life I draw my strength from my parents. They have been so supportive of me the entire way, and just the simple fact that I know what I am doing is something that helps others and helps specific people I have met. And that just makes a world of difference.