Dreaming of a more beautiful tomorrow

Update: 10:16 | 18/09/2020
Moving on from COVID-19 in Vietnam Photos by Yen Duong.
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Thach Thi So Pha lives with her two girls Ngan and Ha in a makeshift tin home in the middle of an empty field in the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Their father left them 6 years ago and Pha has been struggling to make ends meet on her salary alone ever since. “I work as a cleaner in a company, I earn around $217 each month,” she says while sitting with her 13 and 9-year-old girls. “My salary is just enough for monthly spending, but not enough for saving.”
dreaming of a more beautiful tomorrow
When the lockdowns hit in Vietnam, she was fortunate on the one hand that she could keep working. However, she lost additional income from smaller jobs she would pick up elsewhere. “Before COVID-19, I had some odd jobs here and there to make money. But after the pandemic, I just lost this money,” she says. “During the pandemic, the girls would follow me to work since they couldn’t go to school anymore.”
dreaming of a more beautiful tomorrow
The lockdown not only affected income – but it also made it more difficult for her to access healthy food for her and her children. “During the pandemic, their market [nearby] closed, and the supermarket was too expensive, so I ate instant noodles all the time,” she says. “The residents [at the building where she works as a cleaner] donated rice and food to us. During the two months of the pandemic, I couldn’t even go to the market.”
dreaming of a more beautiful tomorrow
Her whole life, she says, is about looking after her girls. She talks about the fact that although her salary is low, it at least allows her to stay close to home so she can care for them. However, staying in their tin home during the day in hot season wasn’t an option for her girls.
dreaming of a more beautiful tomorrow
Despite the challenges for her family, 13-year-old Ngan still has dreams for the future. She spent some of the days with her younger sister styling her hair and noted: “We want to work as beauticians when we grow up since we want to make others more beautiful.”
dreaming of a more beautiful tomorrow
“During the social distancing period, I stayed at home and self-studied, but not all the time,” continues Ngan. “There was no online class. I liked the following mother and helped her at work. During the pandemic, I helped her pull the cleaning cart, and clear the roads. At home, I could cook and clean. I want to continue to study further. I like doing maths.”
dreaming of a more beautiful tomorrow
Despite living under such difficult circumstances, Pha’s resolve to support her children means they still have hopes for following their dreams. As restrictions ease in Vietnam, with her children now able to go to school again, she hopes she will be able to find that extra income to help her family thrive.
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(Source: UNICEF)