Ton Nu Quynh Duong, 66, started her first work of public philanthropy in 2010 and has since devoted her life to it.
Her philanthropic mission began with a child care home of Phu Thuong at Phu Thuong Commune, Phu Vang District, Thua Thien-Hue Province, located in central Vietnam.
“[The children in need] call me ‘mom’ and I consider them my children too,” Duong said.
“In many cases, I feel richer than a billionaire because of having more than one hundred children, who are more valuable than gold or silver."
Making a dream come true
Inside a small kitchen of the Phu Thuong childcare center, a slim woman with grey hair is preparing meals for her thirty ‘children.’
The house is cozy despite the chilly weather outside.
As a former teacher, Duong graduated from the faculty of biology of the Hue University of Education.
During her teaching career, she worked at some of the high schools in Phu Loc District, Thua Thien-Hue
She is loved by many generations of students after more than thirty years of devotion and sympathy.
When she was a young teacher, Duong often felt concerned about the poor and studious children.
Many of them were forced out of school to earn a living.
At that time, the only way she could help them was to pay a visit to their home after school.
She tried to persuade their parents to let them return to the classroom by offering to help them with part of their tuition.
More than one hundred students were able to continue studying thanks to teacher Duong’s support.
Apart from teaching for extra hours, she spared a part from her humble monthly salary to provide them with notebooks, clothes, and textbooks.
“Many of the first generation of students have become successful and want to pay it forward," Duong told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.
"So, they offer help to the students that suffer the same plight as them in the past.
"That generation has succeeded, and as a circle, many of them have returned to help difficult generations.
"My job is like sowing, it's time for those seeds to germinate and I feel really happy about that."
Around mid-2008, Duong accepted a job offer at Xuan Phu Childcare Center while she was working as a teacher at Phu Loc Middle School.
The underprivileged children’s living conditions at the center made her obsessed.
The children who should have been in the arms of their parents were left alone.
She told herself that if she had the opportunity and appropriate resources, she would spend the rest of her life with these children.
Retiring in 2010, Duong decided to participate in the childcare home of Phu Thuong to continue her dream of sharing with poor students.
The open house was established in 2007 from the contribution of the family of late Dr. Nguyen Dinh Thong and his relatives living in Australia with the aim of nurturing poor and studious students in the province.
“It is extremely hard and challenging, but I never regret choosing this job," Duong confided.
"I don't need anyone to praise me, just smile at the challenges and obstacles to move forward."
Being both a teacher and mother
“Working here as ‘three in one,' I am a teacher, a mother, and a psychologist," Duong smiled when being asked what her main job in the center is.
With 30 years of experience in teaching, she has always used the most effective teaching methods.
In addition to mentoring the children by herself, she asked teachers from other schools to help the students.
Duong used her pension and the money she was given by her siblings to pay for other teachers.
It is Duong’s commitment and devotion that have taken many underprivileged students to various campuses such as the Hue University of Medicine and Pharmacy and the University of Danang - University of Science and Technology.
Huynh Phi Cong Hung, an eighth grader at Phu Thuong Middle School, said Duong not only taught him school subjects but also showed him how to be well-behaved.
There are always more than thirty students here and Duong takes good care of them all.
In Hung’s opinion, Duong was like his second mother.
To teacher Duong, most of her students are in the "most difficult" age.
Each of them is a question mark to her, which prompts her to pay more attention to their behavior, nutrition, and sleep.
"Every child here has a unique situation that I would deal with them depending on which circumstances they are in," Duong said.
"I always fear that my improper behavior will ruin a person’s life.”
The care she gives has resulted in good children.
According to Duong, the open house has now become a center for gatherings and reunions on special occasions.
“Many children who have grown up here stood by me in a quiet way to help the following generations, which makes me truly happy,” Duong confided.
'If it wasn't for her, I would have died'
Nguyen Phan Nhu Vu will never forget the days when he was helped by Duong and the Phu Thuong center, even nine years after he left the center to attend college.
He suddenly suffered from an asthma attack at night while others were sleeping.
Duong came to Vu’s room to check on them and found the student was in severe conditions and helped to rescue him.
"At that time, I felt unable to breathe," Vu recalled.
"If it wasn't for her, I would have died.”