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It was always my dream to visit Thao one day

In 1998, through ChildFund Australia, I began to sponsor a three-year-old girl, Thao, in Hoa Binh Province, Vietnam. At that time the family were very poor, struggling to grow enough rice to feed themselves. There was no clean water and they were often ill and without nearby medical care.

Since then I have corresponded regularly with Thao and watched her growth and development. From an early age she wrote me lovely letters in her own hand and she and her family have always felt like a part of my family. My hopes for Thao have always been for her to have a good education. With this, she would realise that she has many choices in life and that she can go on to help her family and community. It has always been my dream to visit Thao one day.

In September last year, when Thao had just turned 17, that dream came true. My husband, Bill, and I finally travelled to Vietnam to visit Thao and her family. It was an incredibly joyous and emotional day.

Firstly we visited the ChildFund offices in Hanoi, where our interpreter, Phuong, introduced us to all the staff, who were so charming and welcoming. We then drove to Hoa Binh Province where we were greeted by the local Mayor and other leading members of the community. Many small children were waiting to wave to us. Thao’s father, drove the whole family to meet us on his motorbike.

My first sight of Thao stunned me. In her photos she had always been quite serious, but the huge smile on her face and her laughing eyes said it all. She was accompanied by her mother and father, brother and 74-year-old grandmother.

Grandma took a particular shine to me and wanted to sit next to me, chatting constantly and giggling, and patting my skin and hair. Her teeth were lacquered jet black, a sign of great beauty. She told me proudly that she still tends three water buffalo in the fields every day. Father made a lovely long speech with tears in his eyes and then stood on tippy toe to fling his arms around Bill and kiss him on the cheek. It was a very moving moment. Thao sang for us in a beautiful soft voice.

After a couple of hours we were shown the rest of the community. This was terrific for me as I could see with my own eyes where my money has gone. We went to visit the pre-school, medical clinic and irrigation canals. Everywhere we went there were signs to say that ChildFund Australia had built this facility and the date.

Sponsoring Thao is one of the most satisfying things I have done in my life. For much less than a cup of coffee a day, I have helped to make such a difference not only to her life but to the whole community, as everything is shared.

This year, Thao will hopefully win a scholarship to go to Hanoi for teacher training. In the future she will teach countless others that there is hope in life and that with an education one has choices that can make anything possible.

Thank you ChildFund for helping Thao to bring so much joy to my life.

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