How did the Ba Chieu Home start?
In 1996 WOCA found a number of girls selling lottery tickets and sleeping in the Ba Chieu market. They found a house to rent down a narrow alleyway, but had no money to rent it. At a meeting of the International Ladies of Vietnam, one of the Vice Presidents of the Women’s Union addressed the ex-pat ladies and invited them back to their office. A New Zealand woman, Celia Caughey, went back and met the Women’s Union staff. She was asked to teach them English, so ran a voluntary class to teach English to the women leaders of HCMC. In that class, Celia met a Vice President of WOCA, Mrs Le Thi Thanh, who told her of the need to set up a new home for the girls at the Ba Chieu market.
Celia put them in contact with the New Zealand Ambassador, David Kersey, who offered to help establish the home and fund it from his discretionary fund to help women and children. The New Zealand Embassy funded the Home for the first two years. Since then, keen to keep it a New Zealand project, Celia has taken over responsibility for fundraising to keep the Home going.
Where did their house come from?
After two years in the small house down a muddy alleyway, the Home needed to expand to take on more girls. In 1998 the local government gave WOCA an old rubbish dump. A Japanese charity gave WOCA US$20,000 to build a house. Mrs Thanh came to see Celia for help. Celia’s husband, Long (who ran Prime Construction) undertook to build a new house for only $20,000 – if they ran over budget they would have to pay for it themselves! So Prime staff cleared the smelly site, found some excess materials no longer needed on other construction jobs and managed to build a beautiful new two storeyed house for $20,000 – a business acquaintance of Celia donated a further $3,000 to complete the home. The girls now have a permanent home. It has a communal kitchen and dining room and a living area downstairs, and two dormitories and a studying area upstairs.
Thanks to a grant in 2006 from the NZ Embassy the Home was able to build a small sewing room with 5 sewing machines so that the girls can sew their own clothes and sew silk sleeping liners and material bags to sell. In 2009 the NZ Embassy made a further grant so that the girls could have a small computer room so that they can learn to be computer literate.