Dear family, dear friends,

I am going to open a training centre for professionals where handicapped adolescents can learn following the dual system. We will start with the faculties cooking and restaurant staff.

When I lived in Germany, I spent 34 years cooking. I cooked between Munich and Berlin, in station restaurants and 5-star hotels, for simple guests and VIP’s. There was always plenty of work, I was never unemployed. This is not just because I am an industrious person, but also because there will always be enough work in gastronomy.

Education is the Central Chance

For me, too, it was hard to climb up the ladder to the master’s level. The reasons were diverse: financial problems, needing more time for family and children, having to learn a totally foreign language and all the restrictions because I was a non-native.
Why was I never unemployed? Because gastronomy never died. Why did I continue up to the master level? Because in Germany, the opportunity to continue your education gives adolescents a chance.

Dual Educational System after the German Model

Consequently, I will try to offer all I find positive in Germany to the adolescents here in Vietnam, too.
Since the dual educational system is new and alien to the Vietnamese, it is not easy for me to create educational openings. Currently, I am doing a lot of work in order to get there.

As to finances: I receive support from Germany for building and furnishing the school. But it is difficult to run the school, because most of the apprentices come from bitterly poor families. The apprentices also receive wages from the companies they work for, but this is minimal and many parents cannot even spend an Euro each day for their children.

Children from Poor Families – a Vicious Circle

The apprentices come to the city from afar, mostly from the country – where there is still a family tradition: three generations living under one roof, many children and little rice. Many children will terminate their school education and move to the city, such as Saigon, in order to find jobs. They will spend their entire lives working as untrained helpers, they will live in the slums and again have many children who, again – like their parents before them – will spend their entire lives working as untrained helpers.

A finished professional training will give the adolescents a chance to escape from this vicious circle.

We want to give the adolescents this chance.

Take me for an example. I come from a catholic family with nine siblings, bitterly poor. When I was a small child, I lived in the Don Bosco home for orphans, where I had the chance to graduate from high school and get a chance to finish my professional training in Germany.
I managed because many benefactors gave me a chance. That is why I firmly believe that adolescents in Vietnam, too, can do it.

Please support my project!

Let us give them the chance to show it to us and let us lead them on the path; with love and patience, they will manage!

Give me the chance and I will hand it on to those who need it most. That is why I returned to Vietnam: in order to help build Vietnam and preach Christian belief through my own example.

For more information about the new project, consult the website:

Best regards  xin kính chào

Francis Văn Hội
(MS – Editing / Translated by EG)

Markus Seidt
Tuesday December 18th, 2012

News from Vietnam #16 – Christmas Letter

Dear friends,

here is what happened to Thào Thi Dung (23) in village number 11, Quang Hoa, Dak G’long, Province of Dak Nong. In 2009, she was locked into a cage next to the house by her parents. She had to do all activities of daily life, such as eat, sleep, personal hygiene, in this cage. Her parents, Mr. Thào Seo Cáo and Mrs. Mai Thj Chu, told us that, three years ago, various symptoms of her illness were apparent. She was provocative, started to rail at everyone and finally took to beating everybody in her family who got close to her. The parents thought their daughter was insane and locked her up in a cage in order to avoid contact with humans.

Mr. Le Viet Sinh, chairman of the village committee of Quang Hoa said: “three years are a long time. Basically, she should receive professional help. I will send a letter to my boss and see if I can and may do something for the woman.“ Indeed, the chairman of the village committee is correct: three years is a long time. For the Thào Seo Cáo family, it was unbearably long. By rights, the Catholic Church should have done something for the woman by this time. It seems like the charitable organisation of the church does not really function well in Vietnam.

Beautiful Facade

It is shortly before Christmas. The preparations for the Christmas Festivities in Vietnam are under way. No matter if Christians or communists, the streets are illuminated, the shops are full of plastic Christmas trees, all the shopping centres are full of glamour and colourful lights, like Rio de Janeiro during the carnival. The Catholic churches, too, are decorated with exaggerated illumination and huge mangers. Billions of VND are spent for these decorations. Everybody is in an excellent mood, there is no hint of a contemplative Christmas. These are purely secular festivities. And the non-Christians seem to understand one thing above all else: the Catholic Church is rich.

Shadow Existence Outside

On witnessing all these things, I kept thinking of my handicapped children in Thai Binh and in the Mekong Delta. There are people with handicaps who remain outside of life in Vietnam. They need more than just assistance and money. They need a smile at their workplace, the mercy of a neighbour, a visit by the village pastor. In this country, many people believe that handicapped people should stay at home; they have no business mingling in society, they cost money and are a nuisance. Only in rare cases do they receive love and understanding from their parents, family and neighbours – mostly if they are supposed to still be of some use. In those cases, they are the free servants for the family. They are not welcome, many of them do not even officially exist. They have never been registered, were considered children of the devil or animals with human characteristics. However, they are very much sought-after when it comes to displaying them in order to collect charity contributions.

The Church Could Help – But is That What She Wants?

In Vietnam, the church keeps telling people that the government is not doing enough for handicapped persons. This is absolutely correct, but then: what did the church do for these people? Far too less, regardless of the fact that the church could and must do a lot more. The Vietnam church spends horrendous sums of money on building churches. Village pastors live comfortably and well in the parsonage and do little. Mind you, I do not object in principle against priests doing just fine and churches looking beautiful, but that is not what the essence of a church should be.

In Vietnam, we have more than 5.5 million handicapped persons and 10 million Catholics. Those 5.5 million handicapped persons would be a nice target group for the church if the members wished to live what their evangelists preach and do good deeds. For a poor country, 5.5 million handicapped persons are an enormous social burden. It is quite possible that the government would like to do something for them, but cannot. The church could do something, but she does not want to. Mind you, I am not saying the churches do not move in that direction, but their motion is too little, too slow and without real organization or true goals. The church must do more for handicapped persons and if that is really what she wants, she can do it, too.

United in Doing Nothing

Churches should not be rich in buildings, but rich in love – especially for handicapped people. The gospel should not be preached just through sermons, but through behaviour. In Vietnam, the communist civil servants are happy with how the priests currently live. They will do all they can in order to make life for priests, nuns and deacons even more comfortable, because then they will neglect their vocation. They must live as comfortable as possible, they are not supposed to develop new ideas about improving the situation for handicapped persons. This is not good for society, but the civil servants will sleep better. As long as the church is weak, the government will be strong.

It is about time for the church in Vietnam to take the Christian Mission seriously and start talking with the government in order to realize a true cooperation. What they need is love, faith and a little courage to change the course.

To all of you, your families, friends and acquaintances a Happy Christmas and peace and health for the year 2013.

Yours Francis Van Hoi

MS (editing)
Here is the necessary information if you want to make a contribution:
Empfänger: Salesianer Don Boscos    
Konto-Nr: 22378015    
Bankleitzahl: 37060193 (Pax – Bank)    
Verwendungszweck: Agent-Orange-Kinder

(Translated by EG)

Thai Binh, May, 31st, 2012 – the Training Center (Don Bosco Shelter) for handicapped children in Thai Binh is finished. By now, 30 children are living in the house. They learn, work and spend leisure time together. The neighbours are friendly and accepting, and they donate food at regular intervals.

The Training Center was mainly financed by the Hilfswerk Deutscher Zahnärzte (Relief Organization of German Dentists).  Dr. Klaus Winter and his wife Helga Winter came to Thai Binh for the official opening ceremony where the keys were symbolically handed over to Bishop Peter. From August, the Training Center will be run by the Don Bosco Vietnam Salesians.
New Project:    
Hostel for Handicapped Children and Street-Children in South Vietnam.

My work for the Training Center is now finished and I will start a new project: a hostel for handicapped children and street-children in South Vietnam. I have now been back in Vietnam for three years. There were quite a few times when I felt I wished to leave and return to Munich. I needed three years to adapt to life in Vietnam. After many interviews with the authorities, I will now get a residence permit for three years.

Interim Resume after 3 Years in Vietnam

During the last three years, I cared for handicapped children in North Vietnam. In order to gain some experience, I was counselor for Caritas Saigon and active in various church organizations, Buddhists institutions, and also state organizations. In some way or other, I now seem to have become more mature in Vietnam and can work independently.

I am used to working, thinking and talking like a German. These three characteristics often cause embarrassing situations: in Vietnam, you cannot directly say NO, you cannot make quick decisions, you cannot think independently and make your own decisions. This is true both for the church and the government. I can adapt, but I will continue to work like a German. Because I feel this is a good idea, even if some say I am arrogant or high-and-mighty – I do not care what they say.

60th Birthday

Tomorrow, I will celebrate my 60th birthday with my children at the Training Center. We will eat well-seasoned barbecued belly of pork with rice pasta. The children look forward to a good meal, because usually we have to make do with 0.30 Euros per day.

5,500 € for a Playground, a House and a Cooling Chamber

In February, Don Bosco Bonn paid me 5,500.- Euros. It was my Christmas bonus for 2012. I used the money for financing a playground for street-children and handicapped children in the Rach Gia /Mekong Delta. It also served for building a house for a poor family with a handicapped father and a 20 qm cooling chamber for girls belonging to an ethical minority in Da lat.

Now they can store their vegetables and seasoning until the wholesale dealers come to pick them up. Now storage is improved, the vegetables will no longer rot, the girls can work all day long and do not need to get up before dawn.
I thank you very much and send the most grateful greetings from the children,

Van Hoi Francis
(Rivised by MS)
(Translated by EG)

Here is where you can make a generous contribution:
Empfänger: Salesianer Don Boscos
Konto-Nr: 22378015
Bankleitzahl: 37060193 (Pax – Bank)
Verwendungszweck: Agent-Orange-Kinder

Dear Friends,

To be sure, my yearly report is a little late, but there was much work for me. It was a truly difficult year.

1/ Due to floods and several small typhoon, the construction work on the Don Bosco Shelter took four months more than we had planned. At long last, the school is finished, the children have arrived. There is room for 50 children, but I am afraid bishop Peter will give entrance permission to up to 100 children. There are many friends – and many who envy us: the school is so beautiful, almost like a hotel. As time goes by, the school also becomes a meeting pint for other young people.

2/ Currently, I am living at the school alongside the children, because there is so much to organize. We have many helpers from Southern Vietnam. They work with us doing voluntary work in various directions and areas.

3/ Now, I and bishop Peter must see to it that the school gets under way. There are running costs to pay… Early in February 2012, the courses will start. We will have to pay materials, machines, teachers,…

4/ On December, 17th and 18th, 2011, we organized a Christmas party for the children. This year, there were also many children from the federal institutions who came and celebrated with us. On the whole, there were 1,200 children and 500 helpers. Local STASI officers presented a few difficulties, but luckily there were some officers from the central STASI helping us – so all was well eventually. This year, we had a food corner and a small kiosk. The children were handed coupons for buying various edibles or small objects. It was great fun, many of the children had never eaten quite as well as now, they also bought much chocolate.

5/ We also have two special children from a leprosy village visiting. Their illness is non-contagious, but the two siblings do look very ugly. The girl, An, is 12 years old and her small brother is 8. Both of them have suffered a lot and their skin looks like fish scales. The small boy lost his eyes.  Because she had been afraid and too poor, their mother had abandoned them in the forest. Some people living in the village occasionally brought them a little food. They lived totally separate from human society until the nuns took them in. They are not allowed to go to school. I would like to take them at our school, but the other children get scared when they see them. I have to find a solution.

Now the year approaches its end. I wish you all the best, health, peace, work, and…

In the name of all my children, I thank you all so very much. Please continue remembering my children and support my work in the future, as well. 2012 will be another very hard year for me.

Sending kind regards from Thai Binh,

Francis van Hoi and all my children

(Translated by EG)

Here is the information about where you can donate money if you wish to help.

mehr »

Markus Seidt
Wednesday March 30th, 2011

News from Vietnam #13 – Don Bosco Shelter Thai Binh

After only five months, the building shell of Francis’ Don Bosco Shelter can already be seen. Here is his report:
The house will provide room for about fifty children. They will stay between six and twelve months. During this time, the children will be taught the basics of a profession and also get medical care. We will see to it that they can live well and recuperate.
mehr »

We received another letter from Vietnam. But see and read yourself:

Dear friends,

Christmas will soon arrive and my handicapped children look forward to the festivities. They hope for small presents, a good dinner and spending time with other handicapped people.

This year, however, their expectations might well be in vain, because we have no money to spend on a festivity such as we had last year.

Here is a short overview of last year’s activities:

  1. mehr »

Markus Seidt
Monday October 11th, 2010

Letters From Vietnam #11 – Typhoon

Dear Friends and Supporters of Francis Van Hois,

almost three months after he returned to Vietnam, I finally received the first more detailed message from Francis. It seems like his activities and his absolute wish to make a difference provoke more and more opposition. Especially by those who would very much prefer for matters to remain as they have always been. Francis is not feeling vey well.

“[…] There is no freedom on earth and Christians wage war. They exploit developing countries in order to buy cheaply. They destroy the environment … Christians in Europe and North America throw food into the waste while children in Asia, Latin America and Africa go hungry. Christians in Europe and North America buy 200 pairs of shoes while children in Asia, Latin America and Africa go without shoes. …

mehr »

Markus Seidt
Wednesday April 28th, 2010

Letters From Vietnam #10 – Good News

… Thrice Good News! First and foremost: Francis Van Hoi is feeling better. He has been ill for several weeks, even too weak to send an email.

Now he is back in motion – and we are all very relieved. Here is his first “back to life” sign:

I am travelling in Thai Binh with Frau Hargens from Switzerland. At the moment, I am not yet completely recovered, am still suffering from a cough. Also, my lifestyle is not very healthy at all these days: food and sleep at irregular intervals, because in North Vietnam, people no longer eat as many vegetables as they used to. And what they eat is very salty. Drinking water is extremely expensive, almost like in Munich and there is no “Leberkäse”…

mehr »

Markus Seidt
Thursday April 1st, 2010

Letters From Vietnam #9 – Official Statistics

Hanoi, Easter 2010. Not long ago, the Ministry for Labour, War Invalids and Social Affairs at Hanoi published a report saying that the current number of handicapped people living in Vietnam is more than 5.1 million. That is 7% of the population.

The consequences of the war, frequent natural disasters and the often harsh living conditions are one reason why the number of handicapped people in Vietnam is particularly high.

Here are some details:

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Max and Vildan proudly present the cheque showing the sum they won at Tabaluga for Francis Van Hoi’s project.

The program will be broadcast this weekend on ZDF and “Kinderkanal”.

For all interested parties and particularly their children, here are the exact times.

Again: many thanks!

Saturday, March, 27th, 7:15 hours on ZDF

Sunday, March, 28th, 11:45 hours on KIKA


(Translated by EG)