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Throwback Thursday: “A Letter from Vietnam”


Editor’s Note: In celebration of our 25th year of preparing and supporting lay missioners, we look back to our archives at a World Care newsletter from 2004 with an article from returned missioner Hao Nguyen from Class 19 serving in Vietnam in 2004. This article was written during his time serving in Vietnam.


Hy Vong means Hope. It is the only school for deaf-mute children in Central Saigon. Not so long ago the pastor at the Notre Dame Hy Vong School for Auditory Handicapped Children has its start… Although the facilities for Hy Vong were donated by the Catholic Church, the school reaches out to children from Catholic and non-Catholic backgrounds.

I was introduced to Hy Vong by a group of Franciscan friars who help at the school on a regular basis. I still remember the first Mass I attended with the children. For me it was a true Pentecost moment. The children filled the room with songs sung in sign language and the Spirit filled my heart with joy.

At the time, my schedule was filling up very quickly with English and computer classes which I was teaching at various locations, but in my heart I still wanted to see if God had a place for me in the lives of these deaf-mute children.

The head mistress, Tran Thi Ngoi, encouraged me to visit the school and see if there was a match for any of my skills with the children’s needs. After several visits, she asked me if I would help with their music classes

So here I find myself trying to do what most would think to be impossible—teaching deaf-mute children to play a musical instrument. Once each week I give guitar lessons to four children in the class, as well as help with the tambourine lessons. Yes, even the tambourine is a challenge if you are deaf-mute.

A few of the kids in the class have less severe deafness and can hear some of the music. These lead each some and keep rhythm for the rest of the class by tapping their feet. Sometimes the sound that comes out of the music is quite laughable, but the majority of the music produced is quote impressive by any standard.

Having struggled off and on for several years to learn the guitar myself, I think it is nothing short of miraculous that most of the children have already learned some basic chords and picking patterns after only a few lessons.

A lot of people might think it is a waste of time and resources to teach something as frivolous as a musical instrument to deaf-mute children. However, headmistress Ngoi emphasizes a philosophy of empowerment. She wants the children to grow up as fully independent, as fully capable and as proud of themselves as children who have perfect hearing.

Teaching music to the children of Hy Vong and being allowed to participate in their lives has been one of the most special gifts of this mission. Their music fills my ears and their love fills my soul. If any of you ever have a chance to visit Vietnam, I invite you to spend some time with my children.


Hao Nguyen


Featured image found on flickr Creative Commons from user Balint Földesi.

We prepare and support lay Catholics for two-year international, one-year domestic and 1-2 week short-term mission service opportunities in solidarity with impoverished and marginalized communities across the globe.

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