Even though she was born in a disadvantaged family and environment, from an early age, Huong was certain that education will change her life one day. Leaving home at the age of 12, she started working as a babysitter. Moving out from a small village to a big city such as Hanoi was a life-changing moment indeed. Everything was different, too different. A shock, to put it lightly.
Huong had to start being an adult, an adult looking after a four-month baby. She did this for four years and every single day of those years, “I dreamed about finishing high school. Becoming a teacher was my life’s dream.” And after four years of babysitting, she decided: it is time to go back to school.
“I firmly believe in the power of education, which is key to change kids’ lives in order to inspire them to take leadership in the future.” Huong couldn’t enrol into a public school because she didn’t have a residency permit in the city of Hanoi. Being forced to attend an informal school during night time, she worked very hard during the day and studied during the night. The family she worked for as a babysitter didn’t accept her decision and kicked her out of the house. “Automatically, I became a kid living on the street. I had nowhere to stay. I didn’t know anyone in Hanoi. I had no relatives, no family, no friends. Nothing. I went on living under the stairs of somebody’s house, a staircase that I paid for month by month. I couldn’t afford a room.” Huong was caught up between the devil and the deep blue sea, but that didn’t stop her. Not for a second.
Automatically, I became a kid living on the street. I had nowhere to stay. I didn’t know anyone in Hanoi. I had no relatives, no family, no friends. Nothing. I went on living under the stairs of somebody’s house, a staircase that I paid for month by month. I couldn’t afford a room. Huong’s mum wanted her to go back to the countryside because, as culture has it, in Vietnam, if you are a girl, you must give the opportunity for the boy in your family to prosper. When you reach the age of 17-18, you ought to return home—not many people leave their village actually, Huong was one of the few that did—get married, work on the farm, have kids and follow in the footsteps of your mother. Huong decided that this won’t be her lifecycle and “stayed put in Hanoi and fought for an opportunity to remain in school”.