NHA TRANG, Vietnam – Vietnamese social activist Tong Phuoc Phuc has spent the past 15 years hosting babies whose mothers cannot care of them at his home, while burying thousands of aborted fetuses in two cemeteries he built in the Vietnamese southern city of Nha Trang.
Sitting on a chair in the living room of his home, Phuc is surrounded by 15 scampering rowdy children, who only calm down when their adoptive father turns on the TV and cartoons appear.
Phuc, 53, regards the children, aged between 3 and 12 years, as his children since they have lived with him since they were born.
Phuc told EFE that he previously had 50 children at home, but after government criticism, was forced to send them to a Catholic Church-run orphanage. He now has 18 children.
He noted that the government also forced him to convert the house into an orphanage to register the children and enroll them in schools, adding that there are now four women working with him.
Although his wife and four female employees help him to take care of the children, Phuc is conscientious about the children’s education and grades at school.
Each year, Phuc organizes for the children to take a trip somewhere in Vietnam, but tells them that they can only join if they receive good marks.
The Catholic Vietnamese devotee first started taking care of children, pregnant women and mothers in 2001, shortly after his wife gave birth to their first son, of two children they have together.
Phuc recalled that when he was with his wife in the hospital during the birth of his child, there was a woman who had an abortion.
He realized that abortions were a big problem in Vietnam, and felt compelled to do something to prevent it.
Although many of his neighbors branded him as crazy for taking on a burden that was not his, Phuc began to contact mothers seeking abortions to try to convince them to change their mind.
Phuc offered to take care of the women’s babies at his home if the mothers could not do so for any reason.
He indicated that such mothers were mostly very young students who were three or four months pregnant and very afraid of their families.
At first, he hosted four pregnant women, but when the news spread across the Asian country other women and newborns started to come to his home.
After the first two or three months after giving birth, Phuc asked the mothers to decide whether to return to their homes, stay longer with the child in his house or leave the baby with him.
He explained that the hardest thing he always faces is to buy powdered milk for babies, indicating that he saves the donations he receives to buy milk.
In addition to taking care of children and pregnant women, Phuc is determined that all fetuses aborted in the region should receive a proper burial, so he built cemeteries near his home for this purpose.
Vietnam has the highest rate of abortions in Asia, with more than one million abortions per year. Phuc receives phone calls from hospitals almost every day to inform him about a new case.
Phuc, who was a construction contractor and now runs a small farm, cannot count how many children have lived in his home.
Despite the financial burden, Phuc says he is “tired but happy,” adding that he follows what is dictated by his heart.