Võ Hồng Nghi (right) talking with children in Long Thạnh Pagoda in Long An Province. — Photo tuoitre.vn
HCM CITY — A schoolgirl inspired by Mother Teresa has formed a charity group to help unfortunate children.
Võ Hồng Nghi, a 12th grader in HCM City, is the founder of the group Kind Hearts.
The girl set up the charity group five years ago when she was in the 8th grade.
Over the last five years, Nghi and her friends have held several charity activities, such as school fairs and music performances to raise funds for needy children in the city and neighbouring provinces.
“Since I was little, I thought I had to wait to grow up to do many meaningful things for the community,” Nghi told Tuổi Trẻ (Youth) newspaper.
“But when I read Mother Teresa’s saying: ‘Do Small Things with Great Heart’ I changed my mind,” Nghi said.
So, the idea of Kind Hearts was born.
She asked five close friends to join.
The first activity of the six-member group was to help orphans and disabled children who were living in Long Thạnh Pagoda in Thủ Thừa Township of Long An Province.
In order to have money to buy books, toys, gifts and personal belongings for the unfortunate children, the six students made cakes, tea, coffee and fruit juices and then sold them around the central areas such as the post office and Notre Dame Cathedral.
On that day, the six members were joined by others who wanted to help the cause.
“We took small packs of cakes and glasses of tea and juices and went around asking people to buy them,” Nghi said.
“At first, we felt shy and a little afraid,” she said.
“Although it was not the first time we had sold things to raise funds, previously we held a charity fair in the school. This was the first time our group sold on the street,” she said.
Persistently standing in the hot weather asking passers-by to buy cakes or tea, the girls and boys achieved proud results.
The group managed to raise VNĐ15 million (US$650), which was used to buy books and gifts for 200 orphans at Long Thạnh Pagoda.
“The children were very happy when we visited. They warmly welcomed us, embraced us and took us around,” Nghi said.
“After the first charity visit, I found my deeds were meaningful and I wanted to do more,” she said.
However, after the visit, some members of the group of Kind Hearts had to leave because they went abroad to study.
At present, the group has only Nghi.
The second charity activity of Nghi was to visit and hand over gifts to 100 children who had been affected by Agent Orange at the Thiên Phước Disabled Children’s Centre in HCM City’s Củ Chi District.
Talking about the visit, Nghi said: “First, I was very scared to see the children.”
“Many children could not stand, while others had to use ventilators,” she said.
“I could not hold them,” Nghi said.
After seeing the kids, she couldn’t stop thinking about them, so she decided to return.
The second time was different, Nghi was no longer afraid but touched.
“The children recognised me immediately,” she said.
“They knew when I called their names,” she said.
Except for the first trip which was funded by the money raised, Nghi spent her own money to make following visits.
She collected old books and clothes from friends and relatives to donate to needy children in orphanages around the city.
Despite being busy with school, Nghi often visited unfortunate children.
Not only donating gifts, Nghi could spend the whole day helping nuns in a church in HCM City’s Thủ Đức District to fold clothes or sell lunches to raise funds.
Never give up
The most emotional project was Shelves of Hope, which would refurbish the library in the Picasso Orphan Village in Thủ Đức District.
When she started the project, her father became seriously ill.
Her mother had to sell the family home to pay for medical treatment. But he died a month later.
It was a big shock to her family and Nghi, because at that moment she was preparing to go abroad to study.
Family and friends advised her to stop the project because they thought it was too stressful.
“Many times, I wondered if I should continue?” said Nghi.
Finally, she decided to finish the project.
“I did it because I fell in love with the children,” she said.
Nghi and her friends went to 22 cafes and wedding venues to organise fundraising concerts.
After several days of driving motorbikes around the city, they found a spot in Phú Nhuận District.
Nghi asked some friends to design banners and set up lighting and sound systems.
Nghi and her friends organised two concerts which were full, and raised VNĐ30 million (US$1,300).
The money was used to buy shelves, lamps, Kindles, and some stationary and decorate the library and classrooms for the children.
"After each trip, I feel my thoughts became more mature and I had more enthusiasm doing the next projects," Nghi said. — VNS