Year Joined MKLM: 2009
Rural Area: Tacopaya
Ministry: Parroquia San Juan Bautista afterschool program, Fundación Justicia Social disability ministry
Ministry Area: Education and Leadership Development
Goal of Ministry: To mentor indigenous primary school students and promote the inclusion of deaf children and children with other disabilities
Quechua culture believes in strict discipline for children. Parents at home and teachers in school often discipline children with a stick or a whip. Coming from a culture that practices the same disciple, Minh believes in another way, a nonviolent way to teach children. She explains, reasons and shows the children the consequences of their behaviors. She has a strong focus on morality and makes sure the children implement the virtues they learn in school.
The government and Catholic religious orders such as the Salesians have built schools in rural areas to serve the children of communities and their surrounding areas. In addition, some big communities like Tacopaya have boarding schools that provide educational opportunities for children who are not from that area. In the Andes, it is common for children to walk to school for an hour each day on mountain paths. Those in boarding schools often walk home for three hours or more every other week.
Minh leads an afterschool program in Tacopaya, an indigenous community in the remote rural highlands of Cochabamba, about a four-hour drive from the city.
Minh helps primary school children with an after-school program at the parish where she lives. Many of them are still learning to read Spanish as their mother tongue is Quechua. With donations of books, educational materials and games from her previous work at an orphanage, she is able to have the children come to the library to do research for their homework, read and play games at their own time. Besides helping the children with their homework, she provides them with a variety of nutritious midday snacks, which they love because their diets are mostly potatoes and rice.
Minh has a passion for learning sign language, which enables her to help deaf children in Tacopaya through the Fundación Justicia Social (Social Justice Foundation). Beside working with them as individuals, she also teaches sign language in the deaf students¹ classes and works to get support from their teachers and their classmates to promote their inclusion.
By working with the indigenous children in rural Tacopaya, Minh strengthens the local effort of bringing education and services to those in need, with the hope that this will lessen the migration to the city.
When she lived in the city of Cochabamba, Minh’s previous ministries included accompanying abused and abandoned girls at the Hogar Madre De Dios founded by the Daughters of Charity, and teaching a free hairdressing certificate course to women in the San Sebastian Prison and a barbering certificate course for men at San Pablo Prison.
Minh came to the U.S. as an immigrant in 1990 and settled in Baltimore, Maryland. She was trained in commercial art, tailoring and cosmetology but worked as a hair stylist.
As she deepened her Catholic faith, Minh earned her catechism and theology certifications. She volunteered to teach catechism to children at three different parishes in the Baltimore and DC area, participated in a home-building mission to Jamaica and medical missions to the Philippines and Vietnam.
Becoming a missioner was something that had never entered Minh’s mind. However, growing up in Vietnam, as she witnessed poverty and encountered poor people everywhere, she dreamt of the day when she could make a difference to change that reality. Minh has always loved to explore new places and learn about other cultures, but she never thought God would put the two together and invite her to serve overseas.
In discerning her call, Minh learned to trust in God’s providence and commenced her journey into the unknown. She became a Maryknoll lay missioner and has been living in Bolivia since 2010, serving a very marginalized population. God knows what is best for her and His people.