abortion problem in the third worldOne man's mission to save rejected babies
December 8, 2008, 8:28
A man from Vietnam is on an incredible solo mission to cut the country's abortion rate, one of the highest in the world. Tong Phuoc Phuc has opened his home as a refuge for abandoned babies and looks after more than 50. He has pledged to care for unwanted children rather than see women terminate their pregnancies.
It all started about seven years ago, when Tong's wife had complications during pregnancy.
"I prayed to God to help my wife and child and I said that if he saves them, I will do something good for people," he recalls.
He says when his wife lay recuperating after the difficult birth, he saw many pregnant women going into the delivery room but always leaving alone: "Then I saw the doctors throwing the embryos in the medical garbage. I am Catholic and I respect the spirit of human beings, so I asked if I could take those embryos instead."
Tong, a building contractor, used all his savings to buy a plot of land where he could lay the unborn babies to rest. There are no names, just numbers on the tiny graves in the cemetery. He believes that foetuses too have souls and should be buried.
At first he says even his wife thought he'd gone mad, but he kept on doing it and now there are about 9000 little graves.
Tong says first women started coming to the cemetery to pray and then many came to his house looking for shelter. Pham Thi Hoang got pregnant before being married and told RT she had nowhere to go.
She said: "My family is very poor and when my parents found out that I was pregnant they had problems with the neighbours because it's considered to be shameful for a girl to get pregnant before marriage. So my parents told me it's my problem and I should solve it."
Now she lives in Tong's house taking care of abandoned kids. She says after her child is born she will have to leave him there, until she earns enough money for both of them.
Tong says that for the past four years, out of 80 kids that were brought to his house, 30 have been taken back by their mothers.
"These kids now have a safe and happy house. I'm willing to help and teach those kids to be good people for society," he said.
With his salary of just $US 180 a month, Tong says at first it was very difficult. They didn't have enough milk and clothes and the pregnant women kept coming, but he says he never turned anyone away.
When the neighbours heard about it they started helping him, some wealthy people have even donated houses for the kids. Now he keeps four homes with about a dozen kids in each of them. He's also received a letter of praise from the Vietnamese president, but no money.
Tong gave his name to all of these children and says he will raise them as his own - but he always hopes that one day they will be reunited with their mothers.