Year Joined MKLM: 2013
Rural Area: Chom Chao
Ministry: Home of Hope
Ministry Area: Healthcare and Health Promotion
Goals of Ministry: Serve youth living with developmental and physical disabilities
There are many Cambodians who are sick, terminally ill, living with disabilities, impoverished and homeless. The Missionaries of Charity care for and provide medical assistance, food, clothing or shelter to the least of these. That includes children who have been orphaned or abandoned, whose families were not able to look after them, or who fell through the cracks of the official social welfare system. The Home of Hope, located about 25 kilometers southwest of Phnom Penh, serves about 70 young people living with disabilities directly and more than 2,400 villagers in the surrounding rural area of Chom Chao indirectly.
At the Home of Hope, I collaborate with the Missionaries of Charity and their Cambodian staff and health professionals to assist youth living with developmental and physical disabilities with their daily living activities, such as physical exercise, arts and crafts, preparing and serving food, cleaning before and after eating, personal hygiene, etc., according to their unique abilities.
The differently abled youth are a lively bunch and very receptive in following instructions — except when the occasional “mischief” is afoot. They tend to be enthusiastic and eager for me to look at their works in progress. Most of the kids beam with pride when they display their achievements and their eyes sparkle with joy.
If mealtime is the most favorite time for these young people, then grooming time cannot be far behind. They enjoy lathering up the soap and smelling the fresh, clean scent. Some kids compete with each other to be next in line, even though all will get their chance. Most kids look attentively at those getting a manicure or pedicure in anticipation of their own turn. We teach these young people healthy hygiene practices, and they enjoy the personal attention. In addition to some tangible benefits, such as cooling from the heat, keeping lice at bay or reducing skin infection from scratching, the kids usually become calmer and more cooperative after grooming time. Personal care seems so ordinary and yet also profoundly special to these differently abled youth.
Hang was born and spent part of her childhood in Saigon, Vietnam. She has a graduate certificate in public health and a bachelor of science in chemical engineering from the University of Texas. Prior to joining Maryknoll Lay Missioners in 2013, Hang worked in the private sector for more than 20 years.
St. Theresa Catholic Church of Austin, Texas, has been her home parish. Hang had volunteered at Meals on Wheels, in a soup kitchen and at a hospice. These encounters prompted her to serve in more profound ways and to look for mission opportunities. Why did she choose Maryknoll Lay Missioners? The stories on its website made a deep impression on her. Hang says, “Maryknoll Lay Missioners live their faith beautifully through sharing and collaborating with others and serve a wide range of those in need overseas. I feel called to do likewise.”
In Cambodia, Hang’s previous ministries include the Home of Love for abandoned children and St. Vincent de Paul Center for children from informal settlements. Hang has also worked with the Phnom Penh Diocesan Community Health Services, where she managed the staff and operations of two shelters for the sick, the provincial referral service and the kindergarten health education program.