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December 22nd 2006
Published: December 22nd 2006
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Menh, the mother of nine-year-old Huy, has had polio since she was very young. Her husband (Huy's father) has been in a psychiatric hospital for the past two years. Menh told me that her husband may be discharged soon, which is causing her great distress—she is unsure if his problems have been addressed or, for that matter, even treated. If he comes home, it will also mean one more mouth for her to feed. She already struggles to feed Huy and herself.

Menh is very independent despite her disability; she sells water at the local market every day. She starts her day at sun-up and finishes at sundown, earning an unstable income of between 10,000 - 20,000 dong on a good day. I know that sounds a lot, but it is under one dollar per day! On a bad day, she earns nothing.

Menh has a special yellow wheelchair to get around in. This serves as Huy’s transport too; he rides on a little wooden plank stretched across the armrests. To move the wheelchair, Menh pushes and pulls the wheel in front of her to and fro, which takes a reasonable amount of upper body strength and energy.

Huy is in grade three at school. He proudly perches himself up on the plank on his mum’s wheelchair for his ride to and from school. Just like any other mum, Menh is proud to be able to take her son to school and see him in the gate safely. But for her, the effort is much greater than most. When I watch Menh take Huy to and from school, I can't help but remember how different the picture was for me when I did the same for my daughter years ago. I have no doubt, however, that her sentiments are just the same as any other mother’s.

Recognizing Menh's level of poverty, the government built a one-room house for her and Huy. The only problem is that the house is a long way out of town, so at the close of market it is too late and too far for Menh to travel on the highway to their little home. Instead, she and Huy bed down at the market each night. You can imagine the conditions...

And just in case you can't, maybe this will paint a bit of the picture: I find it challenging enough riding through the market late at night on a motorbike when rats (lots of them) the size of my dog (ok, my dog is a miniature poodle, but that is still big by my reckoning!) dart in front of me and frighten the daylights out of me.

Lifestart Foundation is easing some of the pressure for Menh by paying for Huy's education, which includes his annual school fees, school uniform, and books. Menh is also receiving rice and food. I will continue to work with Menh on future trips and endeavour to resolve more problems for her.

Women like Menh constantly inspire me. She faces daily challenges raising a young son alone, simply trying to survive from one day to the next—and yet, there is never a complaint to be heard.
Just a kind of gritty determination and resolve to get through another day.

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
My sincere thanks to each and every one of you for your support of Lifestart Foundation's projects in Vietnam.
Love from Karen.
For more information on Lifestart Foundation click on


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