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One out of every six people around the world lives on less than $1 a day. This kind of poverty robs people of their fundamental human rights, and contributes to the spread of HIV/AIDS, political instability and environmental damage. Winning the long-term fight against global poverty requires a new generation of leaders who understand the complexities and responsibilities of living in an interconnected world.

Mercy Corps, a non-profit organization committed to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals for 2015 to end extreme poverty, identified four young people whose innovative efforts to fight poverty have made a difference in the lives of impoverished children around the world. Mercy Corps honored these global citizens at the inaugural Global Action Awards event on December 2, 2004 in New York City. MY HERO was privileged to attend this event and interview the honorees who shared their commitment to building a global community in which all people can live in dignity and realize their basic human rights.

I know that each of these children deserves an opportunity for a better life, and I firmly believe that education will broaden their possibilities.

COMMUNITY HERO:
CHI NGUYEN
by My Hero

Chi Nguyen
Global Action Awards Honoree 2004

Chi Nguyen has dedicated herself to helping street children in Vietnam. She has held benefit concerts and sold her homemade almond toffee to raise over $31,000 to help Vietnamese children who have been abandoned. Working together with the Vietnam Health Education and Literature Projects, her fund-raising efforts have resulted in providing clothing, meals, literacy classes and basic medical needs for more than 100 orphans.

MY HERO asked Chi to explain her motivation for helping the street children in Vietnam. She shared her very personal reasons for becoming involved:

My parents have always told me about the history of Vietnam, how they lived and how their friends lived...stories of really impoverished people, people who didn't have food every day, people who had to skip school to go help their families out and make some money. The stories touched me so much that I started these projects. My parents also told me stories of their childhood there and of their friends who had gotten killed by landmines.

Street children in Vietnam
Photo from www.vnhelp.org
When asked to describe what it was that the kids made her feel, Chi responded:

Well, I met the street children in 1999 when I went to Vietnam. They told me stories and we played games and became kind of a family, and the camaraderie caused me to come back here. I knew I wanted to help them because they were such bright kids and they were so motivated.

MY HERO asked Chi if she really felt that she could help. She was quick to reply:

I believe that I have. I am now the sole sponsor of the Street Childrenís Shelter in Vietnam.

Chi at the Dieu Giac orphanage
Photo from www.globalactionawards.org
When Chi was asked about what kind of feedback she has received from the kids, she replied:

I donít think they realize to what extent Iím funding their program. I donít necessarily need the feedback. I went there last summer and saw them again and that was rewarding enough in itself.

Chi reflected on what the street children have taught her and how they have inspired her:

The kids have inspired me by the simple fact that in my life I complain about things like how much homework I have, and, oh well, that dinner wasnít too great mom. And these kids -- their level of desperation and poverty is so much greater than anything I can imagine and they donít complain.

When asked if she thought about the deeper issues of poverty in the world, Chi answered honestly and practically:

For me, poverty in the world is too big an issue to actually focus on and to think that I can do something about it. I am just starting wherever I can and this is a cause that is close to me. I feel very connected to it, so this is where I have started.

Vietnamese children
Photo from www.vnhelp.org
Here is what Chi had to say when MY HERO asked her what she would tell other kids about taking a chance, getting involved and making a difference:

Just go out there and find something you really love to do and make it into a project. If you love playing basketball, then you can work with kids who play basketball and who maybe arenít doing so well in school. There are so many causes out there that you can work on.

Chi's heart for the street children of Vietnam and her efforts to improve their plight through education make her a real life hero to people of all ages. MY HERO asked Chi to talk about who inspires her:

My hero would be Mahatma Gandhi just because I can never imagine having that much courage in my life and I think it takes incredible courage to be able to stand up and to fight, but with a quiet sort of strength and not like a violent energy.

Chi explained where she draws her strength from to help her overcome obstacles to her work:

In my life I draw my strength from my parents. They have been so supportive of me the entire way, and just the simple fact that I know what I am doing is something that helps others and helps specific people I have met. And that just makes a world of difference.



Written by My Hero
Photos courtesy of Mercy Corps Global Action Awards and the Vietnam Health Education and Literature Projects.
Last changed on: 3/14/2013 1:12:28 PM

Mercy Corps is a non-profit organization that mobilizes young people in developed countries to make ending extreme poverty a global priority. Find out how to get involved.

UN Millennium Development Goals: By the year 2015, all 191 UN member states have pledged to meet these goals, the first of which is to eradicate extreme hunger and poverty.

 

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