Australian veteran, wife send poor children in Hoi An to school

By Dac Thanh   October 11, 2018 | 01:32 am PT
They repaired an abandoned school in a disadvantaged village and keep it running.

Once every few days Phan Thu Lan visits Truc Xanh kindergarten in Hoi An city of the central Quang Nam Province.

She plays with the students there, checks with the teachers on the stocks of food and keeps an eye on the facilities to ensure they are in good shape.

This has been part of Lan’s routine for the last few years.

She used to live in HCMC, where she met Roy Erle Hornsby, an Australian soldier in 1969-70 in the Vietnam War.

In 2003 he had returned to Vietnam as a web design professor, and married Lan seven years later.

Lan and Hornsby gave presents to the students. Photo courtesy of Lan.

Lan and Hornsby gave presents to the students. Photo courtesy of Lan.

The couple travelled to many places before settling down in Hoi An in 2014. In their house in Cam Chau Ward, Lan opened a nail salon while her husband worked as a web designer.

When they started building their house, one of the female workers would often be absent. Lan later found out that the worker had to stay at home to take care of her kid since she did not have enough money to send her to school. 

She also found out that many families in Trung Chau Village, Cam Kim Commune, were too poor to do so.

Lan discovered a school with two abandoned classrooms in the village. After classes in the morning, the pupils had to go to another place about 1 kilometer away to eat or be picked up by their parents at noon.

Lan usually visits the children. Photo by Dac Thanh

Lan usually visits the children. Photo by Dac Thanh

Seeing their hardship, a thought came to her mind: she could help the poor families by renovating the place and converting it into a kindergarten.

The couple got permission for the renovation from local authorities and contacted some university students for help with clearing the weeds in the yard. They also asked someone to repaint the walls and ceiling. They bought equipment and set up facilities including those for dining.

It cost VND215 million ($9,244), and they put up most of it, with some benefactors donating the rest, Lan said.

The class now has 18 children aged one to three and two teachers. Lan also has a person growing vegetables in the campus.

Lan said: “Every month I buy additional food for the kids. I will gradually improve the facilities.”

She promised that one day the children there would have the same facilities to study as their urban counterparts do.

The couple have also built community houses in Cam Kim Commune with their own money and donations.

They gave VND50 million ($2,150) to build the Trung Chau Village Community House and got VND52 million from a Canadian college and a Hanoi university for its construction and installation of entertainment equipment.

When the Cam Kim Elementary School lacked kitchen utensils to serve semi-boarding students, Lan offered them financial support to buy bowls, pots and pans.

"In future I will build a mobile swimming pool for a support center for disabled children in Dien Duong Commune," she said.

Her family’s expense are taken care of by her husband while all her earnings are devoted to the schools.

The children play at the Phuoc Thang Village Community House. Photo by Dac Thanh

The children play at the Phuoc Thang Village Community House. Photo by Dac Thanh

Huynh Ngoc Dung, head of Trung Chau Village, said Cam Kim Commune is the poorest place in Hoi An. Lan’s help in repairing the school has given poor people a place to send their children, he said.

"The school has reduced the burden on poor families. The school only collects tuition fees to pay teachers while meals and facilities are free.”

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