Becoming a parent is one of the greatest sensations you can experience in life. There are those that say the moment you become a mother or father, you become a mother and father to all the children of the world. There’s a certain man who must know exactly what this feels like – otherwise there can be no explanation for him acting the way he did.  Tong is a mason from Vietnam who, many years ago, experienced the great joy of becoming a father. When the big day arrived, Tong accompanied his wife to the hospital to welcome his son to the world. But, unfortunately, the delivery was a complicated one. Early on, Tong realised there was something strange about the hospital.

Many of the women entering the building appeared to be pregnant, but they were leaving in their droves, without any babies. It took time to discover what was happening, but, in the end, Tong came to a conclusion: The women were going to the hospital to have abortions. The realisation that so many babies would never get the chance to see the world broke Tong’s heart. So, in a bid to do what he could, he promised God that so long as the birth of his own baby went well, and both child and mother survived, he would help the other children in the only way he knew how. This was the seed that started his “crazy” project.

Tong asked the hospital if they would give him the foetuses, so that they might be buried with dignity. Then he started his job. Tong purchased a piece of land in the city of Nha Trang. There, he began to build a cemetery so that the unborn babies could have a final place of rest. His wife thought that he had gone crazy, but Tong remained faithful to his promise and what he believed to be the right thing. He was convinced that, despite not being born, the babies had souls, and he wanted them to have a place of rest, filled with love. Since then, Tong has buried over 10,000 babies. However, Tong had more than just one motive to his project. He wanted his holy place of little angels to give pregnant women pause for thought. Often, the women he was seeing were not terminating pregnanices because they wanted to. Rather, they were aborting because their spouses did not want to use contraception, but then neither did they want more children. In other instances, abortions were undergone because of a desire to have a different gender. There’s also the small matter of the government not allowing families to have more than two children – the main reason as to why so many abortions take place in Vietnam.

As it turns out, Tong’s project worked. Many pregnant women – those without resources to support their decisions – began to seek Tong out and ask for his aid. So, he decided to adopt the children of mothers in difficult situations. An orphanage was started. Tong doesn’t see himself as the leader of the nursery, but instead as a father to all the foster children. The idea is that Tong looks after the children until their birth mothers are in a better position to take care of them. What started as simply a cemetery has now gone on to become home to more than 100 children in the past four years alone. The children’s sanctuary survives mainly on donations – and the tireless work, of course, of Tong and his family. With so many children to care for, and all the subsequent day-to-day logistics, it’s far from a simple job. However, Tong is clear on his mission. “I will continue this work until the end of my days,” he says. “And I hope my children will continue to help others when I’m gone.”

Featured Image – Representative | Illustrative