Year Joined MKLM: 2013
City: Phnom Penh
Focus: Education, Pastoral Care, Health
Project(s): St. Vincent de Paul Center
Population Served: Children under 5
Project Goals: Provide access to nutrition, education and hygiene
Hang works at the Daughters of Charity’s St. Vincent de Paul Center, which serves children from at a sewage settlement. The sewage is open and a free-for-all dumping venue for liquid and solid wastes. The houses in the settlement are makeshift shacks, without running water or covered latrine, and built on grounds made up of trash. Many people here earn their livelihood by walking the streets selling snacks or scavenging recyclable items from the garbage dumps. While the adults are trying to make a daily living, the children are usually left unattended and get into all kinds of troubles.
These children often have many cuts at the bottom of their feet, infections from numerous boils on their legs, and various rashes on their necks or upper bodies—not to mention the abrasions and broken skins due to pinching or biting one another. Hang helps these children in various daily living activities, particularly beneficial hygiene practices. She reminds the kids to wash their hands regularly with soap before eating and after using the toilet, not to eat anything they pick off the ground or to chew fingers or toes, etc. Hang’s first-aid kit with q-tips, cotton balls, assorted ointments and bandages, etc. has become an irresistible magnet that is intriguing the kids.
Every morning the children run to greet Hang with high-pitched shrieks and enthusiastically show her this scratch or that sore, insisting that she put a small round bandage on one of their old scars. These kids are feisty yet willing to follow instructions. Their eyes light up as she affirms and thanks them profusely at each opportunity. Also, it brings a big smile to Hang’s face every time a kid comes to her and says: “Bong srey lieb thnam dombauv kon cheea haoee!” (You put balm, my wound healed already!)
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, TX, 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 the MKLM 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 ministry was with the Missionaries of Charity caring for abandoned children. Prior to that Hang 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 services and the kindergarten health education program.