The desire to find the roots of the orphaned ‘young leader’


Ho Chi Minh CityAt the age of 18, before leaving the SOS youth village, Phong held a file about himself and now knew his mother’s name, date of birth and death anniversary and the place where he was born.

Seeing his father’s name is Le Hoang Thai, his mother’s name is Kieu Thi Van, tears came out of Movement’s eyes, and his hands trembled.

“In the young village, many people don’t have a name. Everyone uses the name given by the mothers in the village. I thought my name was the same, but looking at my father’s name, I believe that Le Hoang Phong’s name was given to me by my parents.” said the 30 year old man.

In the file, Father Phong was born in 1939, the date of death is unknown. His mother was born in 1946, died on October 2, 1992 from a serious illness, 23 days after giving birth to Phong. The official letter from the Women’s Union of Tay Ninh province to the SOS Go Vap youth village (HCMC) said that Phong was born in hamlet 4, Suoi Ngo commune, Tan Chau district.

The boy was adopted by a village woman officer named Bui Thi Nghia. However, because Nghia’s family was poor, the villagers had to take turns taking care of the child. “The care and upbringing of Phong over the past time has been both the efforts of Ms. Nghia and the people of Hamlet 4,” the official dispatch said.

The birth certificate clearly states Phong’s parents’ names and ages and the official letter from the Women’s Union of Tay Ninh province about his situation. Photo provided by the character

According to the memory of Mrs. Nguyen Thi Hanh, 72 years old, Phong’s adoptive mother in a young village, in 1993, the child came to the village at 5 months old, with a birth certificate. The policeman who handed Phong over to the village said that on Phong there was a blind brother, more than 3-4 years old. But now, no one knows who he is still alive or dead.

Phong’s parents lived in the North, moved to the South to set up a business, there was no news about their homeland or family line. Because she has no relatives, when she was a child, every time she had a headache or stomachache, Phong used to tempt Hanh’s mother and brothers and sisters in order to get people’s attention. He considers Mrs. Hanh as his mother, the young village as his family, and has never had the idea of ​​blood or family lineage.

“But leaving the young village, knowing a little about myself, I longed for my roots. Without Hanh’s mother and siblings by my side, the void in my heart was both wider and deeper,” he said. Knowing the day of her mother’s death, her death anniversary, Phong bought a cup of coffee, some fruit, and put it on the table in the inn to pray. He often recites in his mouth “Thai, Phong, Van”, which is the name of himself and his parents, and then prays to find his brother.

Once, Phong worked in Tay Ninh and was hospitalized because of dengue fever. A friend took him to the hospital and then returned. When the doctor asked “Where are Le Hoang Phong’s family members?”, Phong suddenly panicked. “Mother Hanh is old and weak, naturally will go ahead of me. No lover, no family, no relatives. So if one day I die, who will be by my side?”, he said. From that moment, the desire to find a family boiled in the young man’s heart.

Le Hoang Phong (far right) with siblings in a common house in a young village.  Photo provided by the character

Le Hoang Phong (far right) at the age of 4, with siblings in a common house in a young village. Photo provided by the character

In 2017, Le Hoang Phong studied for a master’s degree in Educational Leadership in Malaysia. In the middle of studying, Phong learned about the Teach For Vietnam program, part of the global Teach For All network that is recruiting English teachers in Tay Ninh, he reserved his studies, returned to Vietnam to participate.

“One of the reasons I chose to come to Tay Ninh was to find relatives. During my work here, I asked teachers and officials, but there was no information,” Le Hoang Phong said.

Most officials in Tay Ninh province at that time knew the story of an orphaned English teacher who wished to find a family. “Hearing Phong’s situation, I was very hurt and touched. Wanted to help, but he said that the directly related clues such as the government, the Women’s Union, the local people… Phong had inquired but had no clue. termites,” recalled Mr. Tran Huu Hau, former member of the Standing Committee of the Tay Ninh Provincial Party Committee, Secretary of the Tay Ninh City Party Committee.

Once, attending a meeting at the provincial Party Committee, a leader promised to introduce Phong to a program to find relatives on television. When given the greatest opportunity, Phong hesitated. At that time, the English teacher’s income was just over 8 million VND, Phong was afraid that if he found his brother, he would not be able to protect each other. “So reunion is meaningless,” he said.

Instead of going on television to find out, in his young years, Phong devoted himself to studying, trying to assert himself to be filial to his adoptive mother and having enough economic confidence when the chance to reunite came. Meeting blind people for a living, he gave some money, and gave gifts to the Association of the Blind on New Year’s Day to ease his mind when he thought of his brother.

At the end of 2021, he is one of four young Vietnamese future leaders selected to join the Future Leaders Connect Program of the British Council. The program has the participation of 63 young people from 13 countries, selected from more than 9,000 best profiles worldwide.

Currently, Phong is the founder and CEO of a social enterprise, providing English courses in Ho Chi Minh City.

Le Hoang Phong and his adoptive mother, Nguyen Thi Hanh, June 2022.  Photo: Phong Le

Le Hoang Phong and his adoptive mother, Nguyen Thi Hanh, June 2022. Image: Phong Le

The life of the orphan boy seems to have turned a new page, but on Tet holiday, he still has nowhere to go, other than his adoptive mother’s hometown in Cu Chi. Traveling all over the world, Phong has never been seen off or picked up by his relatives at the airport, which is simple for all ordinary people.

He devotes himself to the students, as a teacher, as a friend, looking forward to making friends with many people who are not related by blood.

Phong’s wish is that his relatives, knowing his parents’ names, will connect with him. Being able to set foot in his homeland, lighting incense on the family altar is what Phong’s whole life longs for. The boy also hopes that his brother is still alive, to rely on each other.

“If I get sick, the doctor asks where my relative is, I can confidently call your name or a relative,” the guy said while lying feverish in a hotel in the US while participating in the program. submit Southeast Asia Young Leaders Initiative of America, said.

Pham Nga

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