First Vietnamese to visit Antarctica inspires youngsters’ actions against climate change
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|Hoang Thi Minh Hong displays Vietnam's national flag in Antarctica in 1997. (Photo: baotainguyenmoitruong.vn)
In 1997, 24-year-old Hoang Thi Minh Hong became the first Vietnamese to visit the most unique place on Earth – Antarctica, as part of an expedition that included young people from 25 nations.
The youths joined the trip, supported by many organisations and corporations, including the Netherlands' ABN AMRO Bank, for a special mission to preserve this fragile continent and also send an appeal to the world to pay attention to global environmental issues, Viet Nam News reported.
|Hoang Thi Minh Hong in Antarctica. Photo: Culture Magazine
“The trip in 1997 was a life-changing experience for me. It not only changed my awareness about environmental issues and opened my eyes to new perspectives about the world; it also changed me as a person,” she was quoted by the newspaper as saying.
She vowed to share her experiences and the lessons she had learned from the trip with as many people as possible.
After doing this for years, Hong was chosen by Robert Swan, the first person in human history to walk to both the North and South Poles, to join him at the World Summit in Johannesburg in 2002.
|Hoang Thi Minh Hong (first, left) during the trip to Antarctica in 2009. Photo: Culture Magazine
In 2009, Hong became the first Vietnamese to visit Antarctica twice. Seeing the impacts of global warming there made Hong more determined to take action. She worked for non-governmental organizations and environmental projects to get more experience. In 2018, after years of projects and work for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Hong founded the Center of Hands-on Action and Networking for Growth and Environment (CHANGE), VOV said.
|Hoang Thi Minh Hong at an environment forum. (Photo: VOV)
CHANGE is a non-profit organization that aims promote and encourage the care and preservation of the environment through education and innovative communications that change habits and inspire community action in Vietnam.
“I set up this organization to help young people nurture and realize their plans and goals. I think an environmental movement should be based on the actual situation in each community and should engage the community to be more effective,” she said.
|In a New Year’s day tweet celebrating the start of 2019, Mr. Obama mentioned “climate hero” Hong as one of the young leaders who inspired him to act for positive change. Photo: Culture Magazine
Hong was also one of 12 outstanding civic leaders selected from 12 countries to participate in the first Obama Foundation Scholars program at Columbia University. The program aims to empower civil leaders and help them find effective solutions to complex global problems. Last year, Hong was on the Forbes Vietnam list of top 50 most influential women in the country, according to Culture Magazine.
In a New Year’s day tweet celebrating the start of 2019, Mr. Obama mentioned “climate hero” Hong as one of the young leaders who inspired him to act for positive change. The former United States president noted that Hong had spearheaded many initiatives in Southeast Asia to make the world greener and cleaner.
|Hong was one of 12 outstanding civic leaders selected from 12 countries to participate in the first Obama Foundation Scholars program at Columbia University. Photo: Culture Magazine
The image of the Vietnamese flag against the white snow of Antarctica remains a powerful inspiration to young Vietnamese to take action against climate change.
“I recently met someone who works at the US Consulate in Vietnam. She was very impressed by a picture of rhinos published by CHANGE in 2016, and expressed surprise that young Vietnamese are concerned about environmental issues. That got me thinking and prompted me to join CHANGE to do something about the environment", Ngo Thi Thanh Thao, a member of CHANGE, recalled.
Vo Uyen Phuong, a CHANGE member from Ben Tre province elaborated that “We can see clearly the impacts of climate change. During my childhood in Ben Tre, I used to go with my sisters to collect fresh water. Now there is a severe shortage of fresh water in our area because of salt water intrusion. I want to share my stories about changes in Ben Tre with the world”.
Hong and the other members of CHANGE hope that their actions will make people in other countries aware of Vietnam’s fight against climate change, VOV said./.
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