Ode to My Father

While my mother Tu Chung was well known for her dedication to Abandoned Little Angels since its inception, my father Toan also worked tirelessly behind the scenes from the start. As his health declined over the last few years, we struggled to fill his absence; it took several people to complete the enormous amount of work my dad did for the organization.


Over the last few years, I have been spending more time taking care of him. As we talked, I learned more about his childhood. My dad’s mother died shortly after giving birth to him. For most of his childhood, he felt the cold absence of a mother’s love. My dad continued to grow up in a small town, where he had to walk an hour to reach school as a child.


In 1954, war broke out. Vietnam was cleaved in two, North and South. At just 13, my dad fled to the South with his aunt, where they were penniless refugees. My aunt could not afford to raise him, so she placed my dad in a home for impoverished children. He had a small bed in a shared room with children in similar circumstances. It was bare and basic, but from there he would have meals, go to school, start working, and make friends. This was his home until he turned 18. Despite the tremendous obstacles he faced, he successfully entered the Military Academy in Da Lat and finished college.


I now realize why my dad gave so much of his time and effort to ALA, even though he did not often receive praise or public esteem for his work. While he worked over the years, my dad saw himself in the children we helped. Without the support of an orphanage, he could not have received an education and escaped poverty. In our conversations, he mentions repeatedly how grateful he is to have received help when he needed it most. It’s only fitting that he, in turn, helped other children in need when he could.


I am grateful to continue the work that my parents started with ALA. Together, my dad and I invite you to join this journey of changing a child’s life, just as someone changed his.


Lucy Nguyen