Counting Our Blessings and Sharing the Wealth

In light of the holidays, it is always good to receive a little reminder of how truly blessed we are. “La lanh dum la rach,” which literally translates to “the good leaves protect the worn,” is a Vietnamese proverb reminding us that there is always something each of us can do for those who are in need.

I am sitting here in front of my laptop, cozy in my room on this day knowing that there are so many who don’t possess the same comforts as I. Especially during the holiday season, I hope that everyone can take the time to make a contribution towards those who are less fortunate than we are.

Take the story of Dao Ngoc Phung, for example. New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof recently reflected on the living situation of this 14-year-old girl from the Mekong Delta in Vietnam.

Phung, center, pictured with her younger siblings

Phung lives with her father, Dao Van Hiep, and two younger siblings, Tien and Huong. Their mother passed away from cancer last year, leaving Phung to care for her brother and sister while their father is at work, paying off the family’s debt.

Every morning, she gets up at 3 a.m. to prepare breakfast and review her books. After the children finish eating, it is time for the 90-minute commute to school on bicycle. Then, together, they go fishing to catch their own dinners.

Phung dreams of attending university and becoming an accountant, so she obsesses over her schoolwork on top of juggling household chores and looking after Huong and Tien. She has begged her father for extra tutoring classes, but the additional $40 a year expense is more than the family can afford.

In addition, a dream like this for a girl like her may be impossible to achieve. It is common for girls in Vietnam, where they are often treated as second-class citizens, to drop out of school and help out at home.

Room to Read, an organization whose mission is to assist children in developing countries obtain equal educational opportunity, has set up a fund to help Phung and other girls like her. More information on Room To Read can be found on the group’s website, www.roomtoread.org.

Phung’s story is just one out of countless others. Let’s do what we can to ensure that everyone receives a little bit of cheer during the holiday season. If you haven’t already done so, check out OVN’s iStory page and listen to people in Vietnam with disabilities share their accounts. Or visit the website of your favorite non-profit organization to find out what you can do to help.

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