Thao turns her family’s fortunes around

Posted on September 25, 2017

Thao and her husband Huu run a beautiful homestay in picturesque Ke village in Da Bac province, northern Vietnam. But just a couple of years ago, the family was struggling to survive. As the primary breadwinner, Thao was forced to leave her 14-month-old daughter and work away from home, earning less than $2 a day.

Living in poverty

Thao lives with her husband and in-laws in Da Bac district – home to many vulnerable ethnic minorities such as the Muong. Agriculture is difficult due to the mountainous terrain, and many farmers have been displaced to make way for a hydroelectric dam. Over 30% of people live in extreme poverty.

Thao had to travel 30km on her motorbike through treacherous mountain passes just to get to her job as a contract teacher. Because she wasn’t assigned by the government, the school paid her a much lower salary than that of a permanent teacher. And because the trip was so difficult, she was forced to stay overnight during the week, so she only saw her daughter on weekends.

But this wasn’t Thao’s only worry. Her mother-in-law was chronically ill with kidney stones and had to travel to Hoa Binh every month for tests and dialysis. Although they were working as hard as they could, Huu and his father barely earned enough to cover the medical bills.

A new opportunity

Determined to help his struggling wife, Huu suggested they open a homestay as part of Action on Poverty’s Community-based Tourism (CBT) project. CBT helps vulnerable ethnic communities in Da Bac create their own long-term livelihoods by bringing much-needed income and infrastructure to remote villages, while allowing them to share their unique culture with the outside world.

Thao attended courses in cooking and first aid, and studied as a tour guide. She now runs the Ke village homestay – a traditional stilt house that sleeps up to 12 people and offers stunning views of the lake.

“I enjoy meeting new people and taking care of my guests,” said Thao. “I once had an Australian group of two teachers and 10 students. They were so friendly to my family and my neighbours. I was touched when they hugged me before leaving. I look forward to meeting more groups like that.”

A better future

Thao now earns up to four times her old salary and has quit her teaching job, which means she can spend more time with her family. With her increased income, Thao has made some home improvements and paid for her daughter’s tuition at the village kindergarten.

“Now my daughter is blessed with love from both her mum and her dad,” said Thao. “I want to invest more in her future. It’s no longer a pipe dream.”

Meet Thao and other inspiring people when you Trek Vietnam with us, 26 Nov – 1 Dec.