“Would my girls be better off if they lived at the local orphanage?” So Cuc, a hard-working but struggling mother, thought many times over the years.

Cuc loved her daughters, Ha and Thu. If they lived at the orphanage, she would miss them but maybe she could visit from time to time and bring them their favorite food. She had heard good things about the orphanage. It was supported by rich foreigners. Last year, due to really hard times, that “orphanage thought” passed through her mind more often than usual – and it always made her sad.

Cuc’s husband is disabled, does not work and therefore does not help pay the bills. Cuc herself is uneducated, with little by way of marketable skills. Truly their lives have been hard.

Ha and Thu attend school but have not had the benefit of the all-important tutors (without tutoring, which is built into the Vietnamese educational system, students may not proceed beyond 8th grade). Their grades were therefore poor. The girls never knew a dentist.

A Meager Income

Before entering Orphan Voice’s Keeping Families Together program, Cuc bought fruit, bread, and other food from a local store and walked the city streets hawking the food. Her inventory was what she could carry. The work was hard and hot. She sometimes sold her food; sometimes not. Earnings were meager.

Over time, she convinced a friend to allow her to set up a small food stand in front of her home. The space was small – only 4 feet by 3 feet – but it allowed Cuc to cook simple dishes and sell to passersby. Her income increased to 30,000 – 50,000 VND per day ($1.30 – $2.20).

That amount put food on the table – always enough rice, but the family still depended on the charity of others. Home repairs were left undone. Neighbors bought the girls’ textbooks and school supplies and when sickness came, doctor’s visits were unknown.

A Partnership Bringing Hope

After village social services recommended Cuc and her husband to Orphan Voice’s Keeping Families Together program and they were accepted, Orphan Voice staff began to meet with the couple and children regularly. A local pastor joined the Orphan Voice team to offer spiritual guidance. Friendships were formed; mentoring began.

Experienced mentors counseled Cuc and her husband on the qualities of a good and Godly marriage. They heard for the first time the importance of valuing one another. They also learned positive ways to discipline the girls and the importance of their girls having a good self-image. The couple learned of family budgeting for the first time.

When Orphan Voice staff and Cuc discussed how to create more income for the family, everyone agreed that she could expand her food business if she had better tools. To that end, Orphan Voice worked with Cuc to negotiate more space from her neighbor to set up an outdoor restaurant.

The KFT program purchased new tables and chairs so that Cuc could serve more customers. KFT also purchased new bowls, cooking utensils and a “cooking cabinet” which allowed Cuc to keep all her ingredients together. The new tools replaced the badly worn (and bad looking) ones; customers noticed the difference.