Big thanks to Jennifer Nguyen, American volunteer-in-residence at Friendship Village, for providing us with this in-depth profile of a former resident of Vietnam Friendship Village, Nay Quong Ngo. You may also click on the graphic at left to access the PDF file. We look forward to sharing personal stories like these on a regular basis.
Hay Quang Ngo, 21, has a winning smile. He has a humble nature to his demeanor every time I see him ride into the Friendship Village on his bicycle, as he always greets me with a wave and a slightly reserved, but sincere grin. Even though he and his family have faced many hardships surrounding poverty, one would never think that Hay has experienced any adversities due to his positive and bright attitude that can lift anyone’s spirits.
Born in 1993 and the youngest of six children, Hay has lived a very difficult life living in the rural commune of Duong Duc in Bac Giang province. His parents work arduously as farmers who raise livestock such as chickens, ducks, pigs, and cows on their small compound that have been in Hay’s father’s side of the family for generations. Hay, however, has never once complained about the struggles that he and his family have faced and continue to face; it was only when I had asked him to answer honestly about his upbringing in Duong Duc that he had timidly confided to me the difficulties that his parents had to endure raising his large family.
During the American War, Hay’s father, Nha Quang Ngo, 64, fought in Dak Lak province for eight years where he was physically injured and disabled in 1971 when bullets had pummeled through his arm and foot during gunfire. Nha has physical mobility difficulties due to his injuries sustained in war, which has made it nearly impossible for him to do his work as a farmer. This has resulted in Hay’s mother, Thu Thi Nguyen, 62, needing to work twice as hard as the sole provider in order to support her family. During war-time, Nha was also exposed to herbicides which have resulted in Hay being born with an irregular spine and Hay’s older sister, Hoa Thi Ngo, 32, being born with a lower mental capacity and short-term memory loss.
Instead of Hay’s sister being selected to go the Friend-ship Village, the Veterans Association of Bac Giang province wanted Hay to take her place because Hoa was over the age limit. Hay’s family also felt that Hay would greatly benefit in being able to have an educational opportunity that he would not have gotten otherwise staying in Duong Duc. In doing so, Hay could lessen the pressure for his parents by helping to financially support his large family once he finished his schooling and found a well-paying job. When I had visited Hay’s family in Duong Duc, Nha also expressed to me that he wishes for Hay to continue to work hard in school so that he can find a job where he doesn’t put any strain on his back doing labor-intensive work. Visiting Hay’s family in their old, life-stained home and hearing their heartfelt stories made me realize just how humble and kind Hay was, especially because of the reasons he wanted to attend university. In this brief visit, I also experienced such genuine hospitality from his parents which culminated in a feast that his family had spent hours preparing beforehand.
From 2009 to 2012, Hay resided at the Friendship Village where he attended high school outside of the village and was taken care of at the residential facility for three years. In this time, the Friendship Village was able to pay for his school fees, books and supplies, and provide a warm place to eat and sleep. Although he is no longer a Friendship Village resident, he still visits the village on a daily basis in order to continue to build the relationships that he has developed with residents and staff.
Currently, he is attending the University of Industry in Hanoi where he is in his second year studying to be a mechanic. Since his hometown in the countryside is too far from school, he rents and shares a small, cramped room with another university student where his life consists of school, soccer, and studying. He hopes to be able to help provide for his family once he finishes his schooling, because he wants to give back to his parents and show how much he appreciates all of the struggles that they have experienced in order to shape the compassionate, young man that he is today.