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December 29th 2006
Published: January 9th 2007
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Muoi and Le have three sons. Eight-year-old Thanh is in year three at school; Phuc, age six, is in year one; and three-year-old Tu is still at home. The family shares a house with four pigs, which they look after for their neighbours for a small fee.

Living conditions for Muoi and Le and the children are quite difficult to describe, but I will try.

The house (and I use that term very loosely) is made up of bits of plastic, some tin and flimsy bamboo. Gaping holes expose the family to the elements everyday. They have one bed and little else, unless you count the four pigs on loan in the kitchen!

Le works as a labourer carrying sand—unstable, back-breaking work that earns him 20,000 to 30,000 dong per day (on the days he has work). That equals less than $2 per day to feed a family of five! Days that there is no work (and consequently no wage) usually translate to no food. Muoi works selling candy each day; her salary is 5,000 dong per day, or less than 50 cents. A lone positive among so many negatives is that the family does have access to water.

To help this family, Lifestart Foundation is paying for school books, school uniforms, and annual school fees for Thanh and Phuc. This immediately eases some of the pressure for Muoi and Le.

Lifestart also purchased two pigs for the family to raise themselves and retain all of the profit. The pigs will eventually be sold at market, allowing the family to buy smaller pigs and start the process all over again. We also provided the family with enough rice for two months.

The next step was figuring out how to boost Muoi's income. She had been purchasing a small amount of candy and carrying it around in a plastic basket, selling it on the street for a very small profit. Lifestart had a vendors’ cart with wheels and a canopy built, and I gave her enough money to purchase a more substantial amount of stock. Now she can increase her daily income.

Muoi and I had a lot of discussions about other ways to raise her income. She wondered if, with the vendors’ cart now allowing her candy business to be reasonably stationary, could she open a restaurant?

Of course, my initial picture of a restaurant was vastly different from hers! Muoi went on to explain that if I could buy her two plastic tables, six small plastic stools, a pot, a little burner, and a few bowls and some chopsticks, she could open a street stall and cook on the street. (Her restaurant!)

So, with the outlay of $30, Muoi was in the restaurant business. I don't think I have ever seen someone so proud and happy. I am sure Muoi has been dreaming of this for a long time. Although in another world this would be just a baby step, for Muoi, this is her opportunity to get ahead.

This was another family that was so grateful for the assistance they received. I am sure they will try their absolute very best to make a real go of this opportunity.
Love from Karen.
For more information about Lifestart Foundation click on

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21st April 2007

How easily we spend $30. in Australia. A couple of pizzas, a good bottle of wine, etc. This however, doesn't make much difference to our lives (only the waistlines) as it has to Muoi and Le's family. Such hard workers as themselves deserve a break. Congratulations and good luck Muoi and Le and god bless Karen.

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