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Age is no barrier
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placeholder May 23, 2016   •   VOL. 54, NO. 10   •   Oakland, CA

Ann Nguyen talks about A Little Joy Initiative, which she and a cousin founded, in one of The Mercy Project videos, which can be seen at www.jubileeofmercy-eb.org.
THE MERCY PROJECT

Age is no barrier to a willingness
to bring 'A Little Joy' to others

Two teenage cousins, living almost 8,000 miles apart, set out to make a difference in the world.

Their plan wasn't grandiose; its name, A Little Joy Initiative, reflects their modesty and humility.

 
Advice to teens

• You can start anything with an idea.

• Reach out. Don't be afraid to speak your mind. Others will reach out to you.

• A small thing will make a difference to someone out there.
 
Ann Nguyen, 18, has experienced many blessings in her life, she is quick to tell you. She is the child of loving parents who have nurtured her faith as well as her education. She is the company of talented and faithful friends in the Vietnamese youth group at St. Felicitas Parish in San Leandro. She has traveled to Vietnam, the land her parents left when they were young, to meet family that stayed behind.

In visiting Vietnam — her last visit was about seven years ago — she encountered poverty in a way she had never seen before.

"Walking those streets, you see little children without their parents," she said.

"Here, you have everything," she said. "There, they are struggling to survive. I wanted to do a little thing to make them happy."

With her cousin, Nguyen Dang Phuc Nhat, who was then a ninth-grader in Ho Chi Minh City, Ann Nguyen, who was an 11th-grader at James Logan High School in Union City, set about two years ago to do just that.

Their plan was to provide school supplies, which many families in Vietnam cannot afford for their children, and small gifts for them at Vietnamese New Year and the Mid-Autumn Festival.

Ann Nguyen approached family and friends to help fund the project, including the youth group in which she is active at St. Felicitas. Through a Facebook page (www.facebook.com/alittlejoyinitiative) and a Go Fund Me account, she invited the rest of the world.

She has honed her public speaking skills, speaking on behalf of the initiative to groups.

The money is sent to Vietnam, where the supplies and gifts are purchased and distributed. Shipping costs from the United States would be prohibitive.

In the past year, A Little Joy Initiative has raised about $3,000, and provided gifts and school supplies to 300 children at three schools, including one for students with special needs.

After graduating from high school in June, Ann Nguyen plans to spend about a month in Vietnam, and hopes to visit that school, which will be in session.

She also plans to spend some time this summer making plans for A Little Joy Initiative, including the work to gain status as a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization. She is also considering expansion of the goals. That could include adding more schools, or expanding into providing health-care assistance.

This fall, a dream will come true for Ann Nguyen: She will enter Stanford University. "I've loved it forever," she said. She plans to major in human biology, with her sights set on medical school.

A Little Joy Initiative will continue to be part of her life.

"God's love and mercy have inspired and helped me to realize that I can become an instrument of His mercy, helping these children in need," Ann Nguyen said in The Mercy Project, a series of videos highlighting how people in the Diocese of Oakland are putting the Spiritual and Corporal Acts of Mercy into action.

 
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