It all started on the back of a motorcycle in DaNang, Vietnam in the early 1990s. Ben Wilson had been sent to DaNang on business when he met Luong Thi Huong, another soul with a passion for helping the millions of Vietnamese children living in poverty. The two started taking off on a scooter every few days, traveling through the streets of DaNang and into the countryside, loaded down with food, clothes and medical supplies to distribute to children and families in need.
A few years later, Ben retired and moved back to America, but the children of Vietnam never left his mind. He kept sending money and supplies to Huong, for her to distribute to families out of her living room. Word spread throughout DaNang, and people began lining up outside Huong’s house, asking for help. Feeling a great need to continue their work, in 1998 Ben and Huong founded Children of Vietnam – a foundation committed to changing the lives of impoverished, homeless and handicapped children in Vietnam through improved education, housing, health and nutrition.
Frugal, conscientious and humble, Ben Wilson, now well into his 70s, still travels twice a year to Vietnam to see Huong and some of the 50,000 children his foundation has touched. Many of the kids are disabled – served by Hope System of Care, holistic services for children who have disabilities that may well have been caused by exposure to Agent Orange during the Vietnamese war, when we blanketed the countryside with dioxin. Some children are malnourished (25% of children under six in Vietnam are underweight), so COV distributes milk and vitamins to over 30 orphanages, street children and schools.
Some kids need help with school so they participate in Tutoring for Success, or enter COV’s University Scholarship Program for deserving young students who once they graduate will get jobs, and often give their entire paychecks back to their family to send other children to school.
And sometimes, it’s about helping single mothers thrive, through COV’s Empowering Foundations for Women which provides microloans women have used to buy a printing press or start a small grocery, and are then able to afford to send their children to school (40% of children in poor families drop out between ages 12-20).
Children of Vietnam employs seven Vietnamese staffers who are fiercely dedicated to improving the lives of children – whether it’s buying a washing machine for an orphanage, building a kindergarten, or giving a healthy cow to a farming family in need. And it’s all done on a shoestring- in fact, President Ben Wilson still takes no salary. And twice a year when he comes over, he still rides a motorcycle through the countryside loaded up with supplies, looking out over the beautiful rice paddies, the water buffalos, the people bending over working in the fields, and the beautiful dark-haired children who stole his heart almost twenty years ago.
My $100 will pay for milk to feed 43 children at the Tam Ky Newborn Orphanage for one week. To join me in donating to Children of Vietnam, click here