Tam topped her class

In 2010 I received an email from Huong, the Press Officer who accompanied me around Vietnam as I interviewed Hero Mothers as part of my research into aspects of the Vietnam War.
Her parents live in the country, and had come across a particularly tough situation. A very bright 10 year-old country girl named Tam was due to become a field labourer to help her parents who were living under difficult circumstances. Tam was gifted, and could I help? That led to four years of support to help keep the youngster at school, where she consistently does well. In December 2014 I travelled towards Hoa Binh with Rob Boyes, our newest Platypus member, to see how Tam was faring. We had just completed a most successful fund-raising motorcycle ride around the northern mountains, and were driven to Tam’s house by Ngoc, our backup driver, guide and friend.

Tam with her mother

Tam with her mother (photo: Rob Boyes)

Tam is the top student in a community of many schools. Her very humble home now sports a small desk for her to work at and she has her own wardrobe for book storage. The walls of the house are literally papered with Tam’s certificates of achievement. It is not only her parents who are proud of her – her commune and indeed her community have taken this battler to heart. Ngoc grew up kind of tough himself before emerging as a success story and could empathise with Tam and so we learned of the youngster’s progress and circumstances in rather more detail than we might otherwise have done.
Our hope is that she will be able to compete for a university scholarship, but that will require exceptional marks as competition is fierce and many other students are able to enjoy strong family support, extra tuition, help with transport and the use of computers at school and at home. Tam’s school has no computer access and extra tuition was a problem. Tam’s father has some issues and her mother suffers from depression at times so in the absence of siblings, Tam has battled away bravely pretty much on her own.

Ngoc immediately undertook to lean on some friends in the computer industry. Riders from our fundraiser chipped in and with Ngoc’s assistance will provide Tam with a used laptop with internet access. Extra tuition has been organised and transport has been taken care of. Ngoc has assumed the role of a sort of mentor, and with his great mate Koony will provide on the ground support in case Tam needs help quickly. Platypus will provide ongoing support. Ngoc and Koony will provide emergency first aid if required and Platypus and Tam’s new group of 13 Aussie mates will rock up with the ambulance.
Tam now also enjoys local community support and the Women’s Union sometimes lends a hand, so the ripple effect is certainly in evidence. Platypus has now taken over financing Tam’s education, but I will be eternally grateful to Huong’s parents for bringing her plight to my attention. The thought of this talented girl as a 5-year veteran field labourer will provide Platypus with motivation for years to come.

Family meeting

Tam’s mother, Tam, Huong’s parents and Ngoc – planning session (photo: Rob Boyes)

Our thanks to the riders who chipped in way above and beyond – we’ll keep you informed on Tam’s progress.

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