Le Hoang Minh Nguyet: Families working together for climate hope in Vietnam

Le Hoang Minh Nguyet from Hanoi, and her teenage daughter are both key voices for youth climate engagement in Vietnam. Le Nguyet has established an active community of parents and children with support from local NGOs. Her work combines education and connection to nature with strategies for climate change mitigation. She received an Our Kids’ Climate Fellowship in 2021/2022. 

My story begins when I gave birth to my first child in 2008. Like all moms, I too wanted the best for my children – a good education, material nourishment, a good community, love from family. And most important of all, I wanted my children to have the right  to fresh air, for their lives to be free of natural disasters. I wanted them to be close to nature. That realization motivated me to learn more about environmental protection, wildlife conservation, and combating climate change and start participating in these activities.

I teach statistics at the university level and would have never imagined that I would also become an environment activist! So you see, my 2 children and motherhood have changed my life and been a real turning point!

My daughter, who is now 15, is also committed to environmental protection, wildlife conservation and climate change. She actively participates in many activities and programs. She became a young environmental activist in Vietnam. Accompanying her on this journey strengthens my motivation to contribute my strength to these activities.

My daughter and my family have taught me one thing: you don’t have to be a great person to do great things. I think that every normal person can do normal, simple things to contribute good values to life. In my group, we use a model that can spread and inspire children and parents to protect the environment, care for climate change together, which is the A.C.Ts model. A stands for Awareness, C for Change and T represents To spread.

The first step is to educate ourselves on environmental issues and climate change. Next, we make small changes in our own lives like limiting the use of disposable items, using cloth bags when shopping, using personal water bottles, participating in planting trees, and using public transportation. And finally, we spread this to the people around us, starting with our closest circle of relatives and neighbors and then people in the wider community.

This model has proven effective through the small projects we have conducted. My daughter also presented this model as a green initiative at the 2023 Global Youth Conference co-organized by Vietnam’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and Singapore’s Hemisphere Foundation in August 2023.

After joining the Our Kids’ Climate (OKC) Fellowship program, I expanded my community. Now we have a large group of more than 500 parents in Vietnam who share the same interests and we organize activities to increase awareness of climate issues for both parents and children. The OKC Fellowship provided me with the necessary knowledge and soft skills, to further develop my activities and develop my community.

Right now my focus is on organizing Our Other Mother exhibitions in Vietnam. We started in April 2023 and so far, we have taken the exhibition to 4 schools in Hanoi and organized 5 workshops/exhibitions in small spaces in Hanoi and Nghe An (a central province, Vietnam). We have introduced it to nearly 10,000 students and 2,500 parents. Along with the exhibition, we have accompanying activities such as coloring pictures, answering questions about the environment and the earth, and giving presentations on these topics.

We also focus on setting up small projects and getting parents and children involved. For example, the parent community supported a group of three young friends, then aged 12, to write a book called A Piece of Forest for You. This book aims to provide basic information about forests for children and was introduced by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment. We were able to print 4,000 copies and all money from book sales were donated to plant forests in Meo Vac, Ha Giang (Vietnam). From the movement created by the book, a school in Hanoi (Marie Curie School) launched a fundraising campaign to plant 20,000 trees in Meo Vac, Ha Giang.

We also brought together nearly 20 children to write a book introducing Xuan Thuy national forest – a mangrove forest in Vietnam. The project funded the printing of 2,000 copies, of which 1,000 copies were donated to the Management of Xuan Thuy National Park to carry out community education. The remaining 1,000 volumes are used to propagate the role of mangrove forests in climate change.

It’s important to engage with children as they are the most vulnerable to climate change events. Vietnam runs along the coast, so the impact of climate change is huge. Every year we witness many negative weather events such as storms, floods, droughts, saltwater intrusion and landslides.

I live in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam and I can clearly see the impact of air pollution on the health of the whole family. The weather also changes erratically unlike in the past, for example it is unusually hot in the summer and very cold in the winter.

People often say that family is the cell of society. Our children inherit our legacy and are the ones who will have to face the consequences of our climate denial in the future. So it is critical for every parent to be an example of environmental protection, combat climate change and educate their children on ways of mitigation and coping.

Although there is a lot of negative news about climate and the environment every day, I also see the international community of parents and the parents in Vietnam fighting for a better future everyday. Our numbers are growing. This gives me hope that things will get better.