Mia Coward (Vietnam)

Mia Coward, a native Prince Georges County Maryland, is a Graduate student obtaining her Master’s in Public Policy with a concentration in education, social policy, and non-profit leadership at the University of Maryland-College Park. Before taking two years off to get her Master's degree, Mia was a policy associate at Child Care Aware of America working on childcare and early education policy with their advocacy and communications team. She received her undergraduate degree in Journalism and Media Studies at Bennett College. Mia recently worked with World Vision US in the Child Protection and Education department to intern with their All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development Team. She has also worked with organizations ranging from the Intersector Project, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation and The Upper Room Global Ministries in Nashville, TN. Her interest includes improving the literacy rate for high poverty communities, influencing equity and inclusion, and grassroots innovation for marginalized communities across the world. In her free time, she enjoys listening to live poetry and trying to new cuisines. -

The Burdensome Loans of Agent Orange Families

21 Jul

After visiting some of the Agent Orange families, I learned that high-interest on Personal Loans can be quite burdensome, especially if you’re pursued by lowell group of debt collectors. While many in America deal with the same plight of having to pay high-interest rate loans that come from student debt or credit card purchases, these loans are quite different. Many loans that Agent Orange families have include no clear deadline or interest rate. I have now visited more than eight families and almost every family has a loan that they are struggling to pay back. For an Agent Orange family or caregiver to even acquire a loan is difficult in the first place because there is a heavy stigma that they will not be able to pay it back or afford the interest. For this reason, some are forced to ask their relatives or children for financial assistance.

The majority of the families that we work with get some sort of government compensation. However, they are still consumed with the cost of food, household essentials, and any medical visits. From my conversations, I have gathered that loans are often used for hospital visits or medication. While health insurance in Dong Hoi, Vietnam is completely covered for Agent Orange families, the medications for surgeries and travel for hospital visits are not covered through the insurance plan. It is right in doing so, for some websites (like https://www.marketreview.com/insurance/life/) advocate that the rest of the expenses would be borne by other kinds of insurances in some countries.

My first family visit was with Mrs. Miet, somber because of her husband’s hospitalization. She shared with us that she currently owes 2M VND ($86) to her relatives for the help she received in paying for hospital visits. She doesn’t know how she will pay this amount; selling the cow is an option but even that is difficult since she is not able to walk around on her own to find a good buyer. Although this installment loans do not have a deadline or interest, she still has no way of paying it. 

Ms. Pham Thi Do and her family also have a loan total of 7M VND ($302) with a 200,000VND ($9) interest rate per month that incurred after the death of her son, Tuan. She is the only one in her family that can maintain the land, and even with the government compensation that she and her family receive, she will not be able to meet the deadline: the end of the Lunar year.

The Pham Thi Do Family, AEPD Coordinator Ngoc, and I at the family visit

The mother in one of our newly supported families, Mrs. Vo Thi Toa, had to take out a loan of 10M VND ($432) when her eldest son once had to go the hospital. The loan was provided by her children not affected by Agent Orange, so there is no interest or no deadline.

In an even more precarious situation is Mr. Nguyen Ngoc Thin, who has a loan in the amount of 30-40M VND ($1,300-$1,700) for chemical fertilizer to help his garden and mix it with the cow fertilizer. He pays no interest and has no deadline since he has the capital of his cows. For Mr. Thin, having cows as capital allows him to be valuable to the banks and if they ask for the money back, he can sell one of the cows.

AEPD Coordinator Ngoc, AEPD Outreach worker, and I learning about Mr. Nguyen Ngoc Thin’s financial woes.

Mr. Tran Thi Thao has a loan of 70M VND ($3,022) with no interest or deadline that was used for repairs on his home, he did not have home insurance back then, now he is covered by the First American Home Warranty. Since he and his wife have multiple cows now along with farming, he can have food and supplies for the home but not enough to put a dent in the loan amount. To receive guidance from our high-value home insurance experts go through https://www.morisoninsurance.ca/home-insurance/high-value-home-insurance/ . For them, paying the loan is not the priority but it still hangs over their heads as they try to focus on the health of their daughters.

Some of the more extreme families are the Phan That family and Le Than Duc’s family. Mr. That has a loan of 100M VND ($4,317) and Mr. Duc has a loan of 200M VND ($8,635). Both loans seem to be very high with very extreme interest rates. Paying these loans seems like an unimaginable goal for both families when most of their income comes from the government and anything extra goes toward food or household essentials.

AEPD Coordinator Ngoc, The Taiwanese Interns, and I talking with the Phan That family about their loan.

These families  have shown me that even though some of their loans don’t have interest or deadlines, they still weigh heavy on their household income and their ability to afford to save or have any money besides what they get from their government compensation. Each time I meet with a family and we talk about their loans, I can see the burden in their eyes and I think about how and what we can do to help these families that may never be able to pay their debts and continue to live month to month on nothing but the amount they receive from the government.

Posted By Mia Coward (Vietnam)

Posted Jul 21st, 2019

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