Story and Photo by Maria Lynn Wrabel | Volunteer | Heifer Vietnam
Trinh Thi Phuong Dung, a Heifer Vietnam project participant, invited us into her spacious living room and graciously offered us sweating glasses of black soda as we sat down to talk.
The Trinh family includes Dung and her husband, two daughters and one son. The eldest daughter lives in the house with her husband and their baby daughter. Dung told us proudly that her two daughters, 28 and 22, both graduated from the university with degrees in accounting, and her son, 18, is due to begin his studies in February at the College of Politics in Bac Lieu.
This is an incredible accomplishment, especially considering that Dung only graduated from the fifth grade. She grew up in a family of all daughters, and her father did not allow them to continue in their education. Instead, he required them to work at home raising the family’s buffalo.
Dung and her husband understand the importance of education and have worked hard to finance their children’s schooling. The Heifer International project has helped to make this easier. They received their cow in June of 2010 and have already passed on the gift to another family. Her cow is pregnant with its second calf.
They used $100 from the revolving fund available through the project to begin raising catfish and sugarcane. They have earned a profit of $100 every season and invest their profits in raising more fish, as well, to alleviate some of the financial burden of sending the children to college.
Dung highly appreciates the usefulness of the group’s saving fund. It supported her family while she sought medical treatment in Saigon for an illness. Without the fund, she says, her family would have struggled to support itself during her absence.
The family now earns most of their profits from rice and sugarcane. A few years ago, Dung’s husband began working as a motorbike taxi driver to provide some extra income; he earns $2-$5 a day.
Always focused on the welfare of her children, Dung plans to sell the next cow to finance her children’s weddings, to build a new and bigger house for her son to inherit and to invest more in agriculture for the future.
This family hosts monthly meetings in their living room, where the project participants gather to share experiences, ask questions and offer advice. They discuss how to care for the cows, models for raising fish and how to navigate the fluctuating markets. Dung enjoys the meetings because it is a time for people to come together and support each other and truly feel like part of the Heifer community.