Huyen and her three younger siblings waited in vain for their mother at a village gate in the north central province of Nghe An.
They expected her to return for the Tet Lunar New Year holiday, so they waited for days. But she never showed up.
They've done so for the past four years, but once again, their mother couldn't afford a ticket home for the holiday. The woodworker at a factory in Binh Duong Province had been unable to save as she sent most of her salary home to buy food for the children every month.
It is often a great joy for children in Yen Thanh District to see their parents back home after a year at southern factories, but not all of them are so lucky.
Huyen's parents left home together but her father left for another woman a year after that, said Nguyen Thi Dung, Huyen's grandmother.
Dung has been taking care of the seventh grader and her siblings ever since.
Dung's neighbor Khoi, 5, is also spending the holiday with only his grandparents. The boy spent one Tet with his parents when he was first born, but since then he has been unable to share the holiday with them.
Khoi's grandmother Pham Thi Hoan, 60, said "His parents really wanted to come home but I heard that their company was bankrupt so they didn't have any money."
The parents sent Khoi a new shirt but he was not eager to wear it.
"In days leading up to Tet, when some children get to see their parents who work far away, other children who have not seen their parents get depressed," said Nguyen Thi Huyen, a teacher at the Khoi's nursery school. "Some even stop eating."
Hoan said there was one year in which Khoi asked her and her husband grandpa to pretend to be his parents coming home.
"It brought us to tears. We love him so much but don't know how to help him," she said.
Her biggest concern during the holiday was to make the boy not so sad, the grandmother said.
Meanwhile, Huyen's grandmother was worried she wouldn't have enough money to buy new clothes and Tet foods for the four children.
"I couldn't hold in my tears seeing other children happy in new clothes on the last day of the lunar year while my children had nothing," she said.
The grandmother has been breeding chickens over the past year in hope of buying holiday specialties.
She has also requested that her children receive insurance fee exemptions so that they can keep their meager earnings from their field work for holiday treats.
Huyen's grandfather said the family saved all they could before the New Year in order to celebrate Tet. As the family ate a lunch of extremely salty fish and boiled vegetables, he said: "We're eating this way to save meat and cakes for the New Year's Eve and the first Lunar New Year day so that we have a Tet holiday like everyone else."