Seven years ago, Huong Nguyen and her family immigrated to America. Despite leaving her home country, the images of corruption and poverty never went out of her mind. Engraved in her memories are a girl she met wandering the streets, selling gum for a living, or an elder her grandma's age selling lottery tickets in the rain.
Deeply moved and disturbed by these sights, Huong felt compelled to do something about it. Despite lack of age, money, or resources, she started Paper Bridges, an initiative in North Carolina to write letters to orphans globally.
To date, Paper Bridges has exceeded their mark of 115 written letters total and raised $185 in donations. Their letters are sent to their headquarters in Maryland and to their partnered orphanages. Huong also earned a stipend of $1000 from a nonprofit in Raleigh.
Huong has been fortunate enough to be granted as an Alexander Hamilton Scholar Finalist and a project feature with a $1000 stipend from the Vietnamese organization in Raleigh during Lunar New Year. She is also an active ambassador of the Teen Art Council and a volunteer at classes that aim to help poor and middle-class youth by providing careers and sufficiency resource.
"I want to share my story, with an emphasis on how youth can make an impact despite lack of money or age," Huong says.
Huong says that she's most proud of accomplishing whatever she sets her mind to, as long as she has the perseverance and family.
"It sounds cheesy," she says, "but there was a long time that I struggled with body image and finding a job for my family- but I tried to keep a positive self."
Huong learned that, eventually, dreams do come true and that you have to take care of yourself first- which is why she is a big fan of teen publications, for she reads them during her times of struggles. In her free time, Huong likes to draw, read books (her favorites including Harry Potter and Mitch Albom's books), and drink boba.
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