With four biological children, the mother of fifteen always has space for more
In the mountainous surrounding Quang Tri Province, central Vietnam, Kan Linh has made it her mission to offer up her humble home to local orphans.
For dozens of parentless children, Linh is the mother they never had.
Even as they grow up, take jobs, and get married, the young adults who once took care and shelter in the middle-aged woman’s loving arms continue to depend on her in times of need.
From long lost relative to loving child
Ho Thi Pung was Linh’s first foster child.
The woman first took the young girl into her home in 1986. Their relationship began after Pung’s parents moved to Laos to make a living. When they passed away, Pung and her two older brothers were left to fend for themselves.
As a distant relative, Linh felt it was her duty to step in and travel to Laos to find the children and bring them home. Linh was a newlywed at the time and her small family was not particularly well off. Even so, she felt the extra work needed to care for the children was well worth it.
If the hunger and cold that blanked the house each day wasn’t enough, two-month-old Linh’s nightly tantrums forced the family to scrape up just enough money to buy her milk.
Yet looking back, Kan Linh says she has never once regretted her decision. “It would be another sad story if I ignored their needs. I couldn’t just stand by and let them die”, Kan Linh remarked.
The mother of… fifteen
As Linh and her husband eased into their new life, they eventually felt it was time to bear children of their own.
Before they know it their family of five grew to seven – all under one small, dilapidated roof. “Those were the hardest of times”, Kan Linh recalled.
Those ‘hard times’ weren’t hard enough to stop her from taking in three more children and their ill mother when she heard they were in need.
She even sought help from neighbors to add an addition to her stilt house to make space to the four new members of her ‘family’.
With hard work and government assistance, the couple was able to make ends meet for their now enormous family, raising each child as if her own.
Eventually, when they all grew up and set off on their own, Linh knew that the empty space in her home needed to be filled with more needy children.
She has now reared up 15 children, including four of her own. “Initially, we were all bewildered by her selflessness”, said neighbor Ho Van Thao. “Her soul is rich and her motherly love is abundant. Kan Linh is truly their beacon of light in tough times”.
The wish of love, by love, and from love
Kan Linh says the love and support she’s received from children in her care make her role as foster mom considerably easier.
The key, she says, is never playing favorites and making sure all her ‘children’, biological and adopted, are treated as equals. “Once they are in my house, living with me, sharing my meals, they are my children. They are the same in my eyes,” Kan Linh said.
She also does her best to provide them with a proper education. Some, like Ho Thi Pung, have even made it to university. She is now a teacher at a local primary school.
Although Pung has gotten married and has a life of her own, her foster mother remains everpresent in her thoughts. The two often meet to gossip and chat for hours on end.
Now, of the 15 children Linh’s raised, only three are needy. But with Kan Linh fast approaching retirement age and her husband only a shadow of his former vigorous self, the task of raising more foster children seems daunting.
“It would be 10-15 years more, until they can be on their own,” Kan Linh said. “I simply wish my health doesn’t fail before that,” she added.
All for the future generation
As if the selfless deed is not enough, Kan Linh took it a step further by donating part of her own land to build a school in 2001.
Now, the school is an education center for many of the surrounding wards in the area. The donation, she says, is an important deed for generations to come. To her, it was a no brainer, simply “the right thing to do.”