Vendor who turns down overseas study serves local, int'l community

VietNamNet Bridge - Leaving his home village for Hanoi with his parents when he was in the fifth grade, Pham Minh Hoa now speaks English fluently. He founded an international volunteers’ organization for which he serves as a Vietnamese ambassador.


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Hoa (first left) and volunteers


The vending days were tough for Hoa, who is from from a poor village in Thanh Hoa province. The 11-year old walked with a bicycle and a glass trunk which contained popcorn to sell. 

“I walked with my bicycle and popcorn from Lac Long Quan street, went to Thuy Khue street and then Thanh Nien Road, went around the Truc Bach Lake, and then came back,” Hoa talked about his itinerary for one day. 

“I could sell VND80,000-100,000 worth of popcorn a day. It was a big sum of money,” he said.

Though it was a very hard job, it brought money to Hoa and his family members. “My home village was very poor that day. Many children had to leave for Hanoi to go vending,” he explained.

During days in Hanoi, Hoa and his family members, as Catholics, often went to Cua Bac Church, where he met many foreigners, most of them from Europe. The foreigners told Hoa that in their European education, people can study free of charge.

Leaving his home village for Hanoi with his parents when he was in the fifth grade, Pham Minh Hoa now speaks English fluently. He founded an international volunteers’ organization for which he serves as a Vietnamese ambassador.

The idea of helping people access study for free arose in Hoa’s mind. After finishing high school, Hoa became the assistant of the Federation of Vietnamese Catholic Students and got pay of VND200,000 a month. 

His worked as PR officer and coordinator who arranged activities for groups of students. The job helped him get new relationships which were the foundation for him to establish Mercury – the organization of international volunteers, which was initially just an English club.

The most regular activity of Mercury is organizing classes of English, Japanese and Korean, free for all learners. The teachers at the classes are volunteers who visit  Vietnam to learn about Vietnam’s culture. Teaching English is one of the favorite activities of the volunteers.

The major task for Hoa is connecting volunteers and learners. He has to contact groups of students, organizations and universities, and invite them to send volunteers to Vietnam. 

He is also the person in charge of receiving volunteers and arranging accommodations for them.

When asked how he earns his living as Mercury is a nonprofit, Hoa said he and his younger brother are no longer vendors, but work are freelancers. 

“I work as a tour guide for foreign travelers. I also do graphics for shops and companies,” he said.

As a freelancer, Hoa’s income is unstable, but this gives him more time to do what he wants. Some foreign universities Hoa has contacts with have offered seats at their schools to Hoa, but Hoa still wants to stay in Vietnam, where he is useful for the community.

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Le Van

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