I just came back to Saigon. I went back to work at the place I used to work, but because of covid, it’s been quite empty. For Tet I went home to celebrate with my mom, but she still has to work a lot – I’m worried.” – Suong shared with us.
This 21-year-old girl is currently a student in her final years at Ho Chi Minh City College of Industry and Trade, studying automotive engineering. In 2015, she received saigonchildren’s scholarship for high school students for the first time. Throughout her 3 years in high school, she has always put her best efforts into everything, being a support system for her mother to lean on, and a role model for her younger brother to look up to.
Suong grew up in Dong Nai in a small house filled with her mother’s and grandmother’s love, but Suong has never felt the love from a father figure. Because of this, Suong supports her mom with everything in the house – from fixing electricity to heavy manual labour. She confided in us, that because of her circumstances, she feels stronger, more resilient, and hard-working than others. However, occasionally when she sees other girls who are more ‘feminine’, more cherished, and coddled by loved ones, she feels pitiful towards herself.
However, that has not stopped Suong from pursuing her dreamland studies in automotive engineering, a field that seldom has any female students. Suong chose this field based on her own personal interests, not to prove that she is strong or for recognition. She knows that her strength lies in her meticulousness and resilience, she isn’t afraid to work hard, enjoys working with technology, and because she’s less confident with communication, she thought engineering would be a perfect fit. In year 12, Suong decided to pursue automotive engineering, and continue receiving saigonchildren’s scholarship. With this scholarship, Suong is supported in pursuing her dreams, she has been able to continue her studies, explore a new city, experience new things and participate in social work as she’s always wanted. “Apart from studying, I also participate in movements organized by the faculty. I was also elected to be the deputy secretary of the faculty and was nominated for the school’s executive committee. Getting to participate in social work has always been a dream of mine” – an excerpt from the letter Suong sent saigonchildren.
In her first year at college, Suong unexpectedly met some people who offered to help, they turned out to be scammers who tried to lure her into a pyramid scheme – luckily, she was smart enough to decline. In the third year, she had hoped that the internship at a large car company would open many future opportunities for her career – but they decided to let her go after Suong refused a delicate request by a manager. Reading her letters and conversing with her over the phone, we are filled with admiration for this young girl and everything she’s achieved. How much courage must one have to stay alert and steady before the temptation? She told us that her mother’s health has worsened, she still has to work a lot to take care of my little brother – for him to attend school as well as daily living costs – because of this, she always tries to find any work she can find to help her family.
Saigonchildren is filled with admiration for Suong’s courage, and we are grateful to anybody who has supported Suong’s journey with us. Once Suong found 2 extra jobs at once, one in sales, one as a seasonal worker – a job introduced by a teacher. Some older students also referred Suong to a job at an auto garage, where she learned a lot from her fellow acquaintances. This is all due to Suong’s neverending perseverance. Recognizing the importance of education, she decided to stop working one year to focus on her studies – she received excellent grades. Her resilience also helped her get support from the City College of Industry and Trade to rebuild her family home.
Like many other students, Suong worries about the future and the stability of her career. She used to have many goals and hopes when she chose to follow automotive engineering, but after experiencing numerous obstacles and challenges, she realised that following a career is more than just if your personality fits with the profession. Older students and teachers at school suggested she change to marketing automotive products instead of engineering. But she is worried as her social communication skills need to be more developed, plus she does not have any mode of transportation – currently, she travels to work and school by walking or by bus. After she finishes college, Suong thinks she will go to VungTau to look into some job opportunities that were introduced to her. She doesn’t mind if she works in the country or in the city, wherever there’s work, she’s willing to travel to and try her best.
Suong did not choose to follow automotive engineering to prove herself to others that she can work hard or to protest for equality in the working industry. She’s just exercising her rights, her right to choose what she wants to be and do and be able to develop and pursue it.
To mark Woman’s Day, saigonchildren hopes that Suong, fellow female students, children, sisters, and every woman will have the courage and be empowered to do whatever they choose to pursue. It is through this support and empowerment that will empower children to become more determined in realizing and actualizing their dreams and empower more young girls and women to build the life they want.