A shining star guided a fishing boat with Vietnamese refugees to safety, and ultimately led to a new dream

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In1988, a shining star guided a fishing boat with Vietnamese refugees to safety, and ultimately led to a new dream.

Phuoc Nguyen and his family was one of several families who survived a dangerous escape attempt from Vietnam on a fishing boat. Phuoc was only 13 at the time when he fled Saigon, now known as Ho Chi Minh City, with his single mother and five siblings. Prior to boarding the fishing boat, children were not told the purpose of the trip and how it would change their lives forever. Along the way, the children learned the purpose of their journey. Hearing conversations of other refugees not surviving their escape and encountering pirates, the reality of the situation set in.

After several days of navigating through Vietnamese government patrolled water, Phuoc’s ship had lost its way. It was at that point the captain decided to “take a chance on following a bright shining star,” said Phuoc.

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Beautiful Children of Cambodia- How Your Help Could Actually Hurt

Beautiful Children of Cambodia- How Your Help Could Actually Hurt

*Pictures taken by TSIO

The children are friendly and much fun to talk with. They love to practice their English with you. Many of these children are also selling various items outside the tourist areas. It is not recommended to give away money or even purchase the items from the children. The reasoning by various leadership in Cambodia is because it perpetuates a vicious cycle of poverty to continue. The families see it as an opportunity to make a quick few bucks which discourages the kids from going to school and thus furthering their education. In the end it becomes unsustainable by enabling a dependent system that produces another generation in poverty.

The other thing to watch out for is what is called the Orphan Tourism. Some orphanages are not even legit. It can be a big scam and money-maker using kids from throughout the village to create a heart tugging display to reach deep into your pockets.

If you do find a legitimate orphanage, this rule still applies. Children are not there for your display and amusement. You see them, have a good time, and then go home. They see you and only hope that maybe you will be their new home. Well intentions sometimes can actually do more harm.

The best way to help more sustainably is by funding or giving of some real committed time and talents to a solid organization that has been well established. Even better, help empower the Cambodian people in a mutual learning relationship. This will help them continue to develop leaders within their own country as they desire and are very much capable of doing with a little support. It is best to go through your Consulate for recommendations on who and how to best help.