Many generations of Laotian students at Da Nang-based universities in central Vietnam have become foster children of Vietnamese mothers.
As foreign students, these Lao students are provided with accommodation, meals, and a learning environment, while the Vietnamese mothers are taught about the Lao culture.
On the morning of November 4, a vehicle transporting 13 Lao students who would study at the University of Da Nang - University of Science and Education arrived at the headquarters of the government of Lien Chieu District in Da Nang for the admission ceremony.
These Lao students were sent to households in Hoa Khanh Nam Ward.
The students were set to experience 21 days to stay and learn Vietnamese culture from Vietnamese families.
Foster Lao daughters bring back memories of Laos
Sitting in front of the headquarters of the Hoa Khanh Nam Ward government very early in the morning, a group of seven women who would foster Lao students were nervous as the vehicle carrying these overseas students had yet to arrive.
It was not until 10:00 am that the leader of the group announced that the vehicle was present at a pick-up venue.
The mothers quickly got on a 16-seater car to meet and foster the Lao students.
Pham Thi Tuyet, who lives at 172/1C Hoang Van Thai in Hoa Khanh Nam Ward, Lien Chieu District, Da Nang, spent several days cleaning and tidying a room in her house to welcome her foster daughter, called Sengmany Xong.
The Vietnamese mother even bought a set of bedding, a desk, and a lock for her foster Lao child.
Before being fostered, the Lao girl had learned Vietnamese at the University of Science and Education for a few months.
She wanted to return to Vietnam and stay in a Vietnamese family to learn more about the traditional culture, so Tuyet proposed the Women’s Union of Hoa Khanh Nam Ward allow her to contact and foster Xong.
The beautiful Lao student was also given a Vietnamese name, Pham Thi Hoa.
Besides Hoa, another Lao girl, called Aling Somchanmavong, was fostered by Tuyet, but she missed the car to Vietnam.
In the first meeting, the Lao girl and Tuyet felt bewildered and embarrassed.
However, Tuyet quickly dispelled the atmosphere of strangeness with her friendliness and gentleness.
Before Sengmany Xong, or Hoa, Tuyet had fostered six Lao girls, some of whom returned to Laos for work.
Vietnamese people who lived in Laos in wartime have a special love for Lao people, Tuyet said.
|Pham Thi Tuyet takes her Lao daughters to a local tailor shop for a Vietnamese 'ao dai.' Photo: Tran Duc / Tuoi Tre|
Tuyet served as a logistic supporter and stayed in Laos in wartime, so her love for Lao residents remains deep.
“Lao people are very kind and lovely. Like upland Vietnamese people, they always hugged Vietnamese soldiers when seeing them and gave them food,” Tuyet recounted.
“When getting an opportunity to foster Lao students, I was happier than them. Seeing Lao students wearing a traditional costume looked as though I met Lao people again.”
Lao students traveling to Da Nang are mostly offered a course in Vietnamese language at the University of Science and Education before being sent to other universities in the city.
To help Lao students have a good command of the Vietnamese language and know the culture well, local authorities send them to Vietnamese households for at least 21 days.
Luu Thi Nghia, chairwoman of the Women’s Union of Hoa Khanh Nam Ward, said the number of families signing up to foster is huge.
“The most interesting thing is that the majority of these households have a predestined relationship with Lao people," Nghia said.
"They lived in Laos in wartime and have a deep love for the land."
Da Nang residents agree to foster Lao students as they are so obedient and good-natured, and the Lao culture is familiar to Vietnamese people.
At a meeting on the traditional Tet holiday of Lao students at the University of Science and Education, many expressed their deep emotions at the love of Da Nang families for them. They felt so lucky that they were fostered by these Vietnamese mothers.
The Lao students said that they were happy to wear the first Vietnamese 'ao dai' given by their foster mothers.
The ward presented fabric to foster families so that they could take their foster daughters to local tailor shops for a new 'ao dai,' said Nghia.
Phan Thi Thiep, whose house is located at 19 Tran Duc Street in Hoa Khanh Nam Ward, said that she spent VND500,000 (US$20) having two sets of Vietnamese 'ao dai' made for her two foster Lao daughters, called Xaxa Saya and Keo Chansina.
“The two liked the 'ao dai' so much. They always wear the Vietnamese 'ao dai' on national holidays,” said Thiep.
Thiep has one child, but her child is living in another district. Therefore, she feels lonely and is willing to foster Lao students.
“Xaxa Saya and Keo Chansina are my first foster daughters. They returned to their country for the teaching career after securing a master's degree. I am still in touch with them,” Thiep said.
The fostering of Lao students not only helps these overseas students finish their study in Da Nang successfully, but also forms a destined connection between the two peoples.
After completing their study, these Lao students return to their country, but always miss their foster parents in Da Nang. Therefore, they regularly visit their foster parents or vice versa, looking like close relatives.
“When we visited their houses in Laos, their parents welcomed us with open arms and took us around. We really see each other as siblings,” said Vu Thi Xuan Huong.
Huong, 63, who resides at 60 Le Doan Nha Street in Lien Chieu District, said that thanks to her fostering, she now has a relative in Laos.
Her foster daughter is called Phetmany Bae, a law student.
In 2018, Bae arrived in Da Nang for overseas study and was fostered by Huong.
However, a few months later, she was seriously ill, so Huong and her family managed to get her treated.
After Bae recovered, Huong and her husband brought her back to her homeland in Laos.