Vietnamese woman returns to her abandoned kids after media report

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Nguyen Thanh Tuoi (2nd, left), 13, and his brother and sisters on their porch in Dong Nai Province. Their parents left Tuoi to take care of the five, until philanthropists rushed in and a media report brought the mother back December 4. Photo courtesy of Tuoi Tre

The mother of five children whom local media had said were abandoned and left to eat other people's garbage has returned after reading about their plight.

A source from the Phu Tan Commune government in Dinh Quan District, Dong Nai Province, said Tuesday that the mother, Nguyen Thi Phuong, came back December 4, three days after Tuoi Tre published a story about the children between 3 and 13 years old fending for themselves.

The 3-year-old girl had fainted from hunger at least once and the kids were left to forage for scraps of chicken to eat and had been braving painful stings while catching scorpions to sell for money.

The children's father left home a year ago as a fugitive and the mother did the same several months later. There are three older children in the family, of 15-18 years old, but all worked far away from the province and did not earn enough even for themselves.

Phuong said she left the Ho Chi Minh City-adjacent province in June for the Mekong Delta province of Ben Tre to take care of her sick grandmother. The old woman died later and Phuong stayed there to work.

She said she worked odd jobs and that there was no harvest in Dong Nai in the summer, which meant no work was available there.

She said she had asked a neighbor in Dong Nai to keep an eye on the children. "I intended to come back for them but did not have money for travel."

Lai Thi Tuyet, vice principal of Nguyen Binh Khiem primary school in the area, said the Tuoi Tre report helped win donations for the children, who for the moment have better meals and clothes and do not have to catch scorpions.

Local adults had been bringing rice to the children, who live in a charity home given to poor families, but it's not enough.


The commune has received more than 14 million ($663) in cash, 660 kilograms of rice plus clothes and cookeries for the children from philanthropists.

An unidentified company has offered to sponsor the children until they are 18 years old. They are scheduled to meet with the family and local authorities to make the arrangement early next year.

Nguyen Thanh Tuoi, 13, who has been the breadwinner of the five, is going back to school next week, while his younger brother and sister, 11 and 9 years old respectively, are already back in class.

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