Phuong’s background is certainly more privileged than most of her countrymen. She is the second child in a small family in Ha Noi; her mother is the director of Ha Noi Pharmaceutical company and her father is a public servant in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment.
But despite this distance from poverty, the 27-year-old says for a long time she had been preoccupied with the suffering of one particular disadvantaged section of society – Agent Orange victims.
In 2001, whilst a student at Thang Long Law University, Phuong was an active volunteer in activities supporting children at the Hoa Binh (Peace), Thanh Xuan and Viet Nam Friendship SOS villages in Ha Noi and the neighbouring province of Ha Tay.
In the face of the sorrow and pain suffered by the AO-affected children there, Phuong decided to set up the Students’ Humanitarian Association on September 2, 2001, with her as its director.
"My mind was haunted with the question of where the children would go when the Government stops giving them support after they turned 18 years old." Phuong recalls.
"If they return to their families, they will be a burden for their parents and other family members, so I decided I had to do something to help them stand on their own two feet and become useful citizens."
Four years later, fortune gave Phuong a leg up in her philanthropic ambitions. In the 2006 competition "Creative Day" sponsored by the World Bank, Phuong won an award of US$10,000. She decided to use the sum to establish the Tu Luc (Self-reliance) Humanitarian Centre in Bat Trang Village, about 40km from downtown Ha Noi.
With sponsorship from the Viet Nam Union of Informatic Application, the centre supports 23 children, all orphans and AO victims. Phuong is the director.
In addition to learning vocational skills, the children have six regular classes a week, and every month they have an excursion to places of interest in the city.
As well as a school curriculum, the students learn how to make ceramics which are then sold to enthusiastic fans.
Tu Luc has become a hub of activity for many student volunteers from different universities. Among these, Vu Tien Hung from the Thang Long People’s Founded University is in charge of design and Nguyen Hoai Nam from Ha Noi University of Business and Administration heads sales and distribution.
"I was so impressed by what Phuong had done for the children, I decided to become a team member. Since then the children have become a big part of my life," Hung says.
It’s not so common for someone with a lot to be so giving but Phuong insists that working with the children also enriched her. "Sharing the pains suffered by AO victims has helped me have a more meaningful life," she says, adding, "I want to offer the children psychological counselling and rehabilitation to give them confidence for adulthood."