Kieu Thi Anh Lien gives her youngest son, 7, a shower inside a cemetery in Binh Tan District, Ho Chi Minh City. The mother from Binh Phuoc Province said she and her husband were very poor. But life was still alright, until the day he left for work and never came back. Photos: Truong Thanh Tung/Zing.vn
Lien decided to leave her hometown and took her three sons to Tay Ninh Province, where she worked on paddy fields for a while. The family eventually moved to Ho Chi Minh City.
Without a job, she could only bring her children into Binh Hung Hoa, the biggest cemetery in the city and they slept anywhere they could. “Those days, I could not even cry,” she told news website Zing.vn.
A family that owns a few vacant burial lots in the cemetery has allowed Lien to build a small house there. She has to clean the family's tombs in return.
The boys set a bonfire after picking leaves from the tombs.
Now Lien also earns VND3 million (US$130) a month by working as a helper at a kindergarten and some extra from cleaning jobs at a church in the evening. She takes her youngest son along for the night job.
Her oldest son (R) of 18 years old is a seventh grader at a charity school. He is five years behind most of his peers of the same age.
The big brother helps the youngest one do homework, using a tomb as their desk.
The little boy’s playground is around the tombs.
His friends are stray cats and dogs that his mother brought home. His father left when he was six months old.
A local woman brings fish and baskets to give Lien as gifts.
The middle son has dropped out of school and is learning to be a motorbike fixer. Lien said he wants to earn money to keep his brothers in school.
Lien and her youngest son prepare dinner to their dogs.
Lien prepares her son’s school bags. “Only proper study can keep them out of misery,” she said.
She has ischemia and colitis. But despite the health conditions, she rarely takes a day off.
Six stray dogs and cats are now also members of the happy family.
Lien said her sons give her strength to move on. “At least life has been much better. It was ten times more miserable before,” she said.
You can find the original Vietnamese story here on Zing