“I’ll never forget the story of a nine-year-old girl who was sexually abused by her stepfather after her parents got divorced,” said Tran Phuong Dung, founder of The Angels’ Halos Organization.
The Angels’ Halos Organization is a group of young Vietnamese who work with other young people to prevent child abuse and offer psychological support to victims of bullying.
The organization, based in Ho Chi Minh City, currently boasts 100 members, all of whom are intent on stamping out all forms of mistreatment against children.
Phuong Dung, 18, is one of the founders of The Angels’ Halos Organization and has since worked to grow it into a pillar of support for young people affected by abuse and violence.
“I hope to help educate others on abuse and violence against children in a way that allows me to approach both parents and young people and help anyone in need,” said Dung.
Youth helping youth
Nguyen Ngoc Minh Anh, Ly Thi Minh Anh, Dang Linh Nhi, Pham Linh Dan, and Tran Phuong Dung founded The Angels’ Halos together in 2020.
All are university students except Nhi, who is a twelfth grader.
Dung was inspired to help found the group after hearing of a nine-year-old girl who had been abused by her stepfather.
“I began researching how to start a nonprofit the moment I heard the story,” Dung recounted.
“Then I drew up a strategic plan and shared it with my friends.”
The other four agreed to join Dung in launching the organization as they also felt sympathy for the little girl.
They split up the responsibilities evenly, with one handling communication, another taking care of human resources, and the third dealing with design.
The more they developed The Angels’ Halos, the more tragic stories of child abuse the founders heard, and the more effort they put into building their organization.
They keep updating their group’s Facebook page with information on child abuse prevention; translating articles from newspapers, scientific journals, and prestigious organizations; and educating others on how to handle child abuse situations they may be aware of.
In June 2020, the team opened a so-called 'confession channel' which served as an online forum for young people to share their personal stories of abuse.
“We once got a phone call from a tenth grader who was being bullied at school," Dung recalled.
"She cried a lot during her first call while she's trying to tell us what happened.
"Her friends had abandoned her whereas her classmates had thrown her notebooks away and poured water on them."
For two months, the group patiently listened to the student as she recounted her story.
They offered advice on approaching her parents and school administrators until the student finally started to cheer up.
Growing more mature
The Angels’ Halos Organization now boasts over 100 members aged 15 to 21.
“I wanted to take part in a project with a mission that I feel strongly about,” said Bao Tran, a member of The Angels’ Halos.
Through volunteering with the group, Bao Tran has learned soft skills, participated in a variety of after-school activities, and sharpened her technical know-how.
She also spends a significant amount of time learning about key issues in the fight against child abuse and children’s rights in general.
“I have been transformed into a better person,” she said.
“I have become more mature than I was before."
Minh Anh, a first-year student at Hanoi Medical University, also volunteers with The Angels’ Halos by sharing reports from journals such as Psychological Bulletin and Journal of Applied Psychology.
The Angels’ Halos works with BlueBlue Hotline – a Hanoi-based group of young people that connects psychologists to those in need of professional mental support.