Phuong (Minh) Nguyen

Year Joined MKLM: 2009
Country: Bolivia
City: Cochabamba
Focus: Education, Pastoral Care
Project(s): Amanecer (Daybreak), San Pablo Men’s Prison Barbering and San Sebastian Women’s Prison Hairdressing Certificate Programs
People Served: Abandoned girls, incarcerated men and women

Project Goal(s): To be a role model for the girls, and to love them and help them enjoy their childhood. To enable inmates to obtain barbering or hairdressing certificates to gain employment.

Current Ministries:

Becoming a missioner is something that never entered Minh’s mind, even in her wildest dreams. However, growing up witnessing the poverty of Vietnam and seeing the poor everywhere, she did dream of the day when she could make a difference to change that reality. Minh loved to explore new places, learning about other cultures, but she never thought God would put the two together and invite her to serve overseas. Her call to mission started with a casual conversation about dreams, with someone asking her, “What would you like to do, Minh?” Without thinking or even knowing what missioner meant, her answer was, “I want to be a missioner.” The response startled her, as the Spirit spoke within, but she could not let go of the idea. She struggled with it for a bit, but soon gave into the restlessness of her heart, and became more convinced that this desire was God’s call. Minh began her research and discernment, 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. Her dream fulfilled, Minh trusts that God knows what is best for her and His people.

Minh serves at Amanecer, a program founded by the Sisters of Charity, which rescues abused and/or abandoned children. It provides them with intellectual, social and spiritual development to help them become functioning members of society. As they increase their education, knowledge and skills, the girls gain confidence and self-esteem. They become loving, responsible, trusting, and respectful, resulting in healthier lives. Minh works at a home with girls aged 3-16. She assists them with homework, and teaches sewing, knitting, crocheting and self-sufficiency skills. She also organizes birthday parties for the girls and takes them on field trips!

Based on expressed need, and with the diocese’s pastoral permission, Minh developed, introduced and sustains a free Hairdressing Certificate Course to provide the San Sebastian women employment opportunities inside and after leaving prison. With government recommendation and support, Minh also offers a Barbering Certificate Course for men at San Pablo Prison. Upon course completion, Minh submits the required paperwork to the government and it issues certificates to the graduates. The new skills provide men and women with legitimate means to support themselves and their families, a chance to better their lives, thus avoiding a return to crime. Minh is exploring a “train the trainer” program, so that long-term inmates can become certified and trained to teach additional prisoners.

Personal Data:

Minh is from Vietnam and lived in Baltimore, MD. She is a licensed cosmetologist, has worked as a hair stylist, and has been trained in commercial art, crocheting and tailoring. She belonged to Our Lady of La Vang Parish. Minh earned her catechism and theology certification, and has volunteered to teach catechism to children at three different parishes in Baltimore. She also has participated in medical missions to Jamaica, the Philippines and Vietnam.