The commendation for Col. Nga was made by Major General Hoang Kim Phung, former Director of the Vietnam Department of Peacekeeping Operations (VNPKO).

Peace ambassador

Col. Nga, Deputy Director of the VNDPKO’s International Cooperation Department, has recently been appointed as the Deputy Head of the Military Women Advisory Board of the General Department of Political Affairs.

Talking about her deployments to South Sudan, the quick-witted, shrewd, and intelligent woman recalled that in 2014, while she was working at the Military Technical Academy, she heard that Vietnam planned to send two male officers to join in the U.N. peacekeeping force for the first time. The news ignited her burning desire to be part of the force.

From then on, she quietly prepared herself for joining the force. After work, she made the best of her free time to improve her English skills. In the evenings, after her children had fallen asleep, she continued the learning. Sometimes, she stayed up until 2-3a.m. to learn foreign languages and about peacekeeping operations, which was completely new to her. Thanks to the efforts, in late 2017, Nga was selected to go to South Sudan.

Do Thi Hang Nga and children in South Sudan

At that time, Nga was the first female Vietnamese officer participating in peacekeeping missions outside the country's territory. She was fully aware that she was about to carry out missions in a country engulfed by civil war and thousands of kilometers away from her homeland and that she might have to face numerous dangers. However, with the support of families, she was determined to stick to her chosen path.

Col. Nga said that as soldiers of the Vietnam People's Army, everyone must be ready to go anywhere and undertake any mission. She said that joining the U.N. peacekeeping operations was the right choice for her. Through the work, she had the opportunity to enrich her experience and enhance necessary skills.

Now her stories about the strange land and her missions have inspired her sons to enrich their English skills and join the military and the Vietnamese peacekeeping force.

Woman with the heart of gold

On the first days in Juba, South Sudan, the female staff officer thought that in a civil war situation, the local people must be facing many difficulties and need assistance, so she asked UNMISS’s command and Vietnam’s higher levels for permission to go out after work hours and on days off to learn about the life of the local people.

The young officer learnt that local people were poor and lacked basic necessities such as food and clothing. They lived in makeshift houses. That time, the image of local children on barefoot and in tattered clothes looking at her with curious eyes tormented and urged her to do something to help. Local women relied entirely on aid from non-governmental organizations.

Coming back to her base, Nga started calling on U.N. staff who were about to finish their duties to donate necessities to locals. Her deed received the strong support from many colleagues, including a female officer from Norway, named Vibike, who travelled around the capital city of Juba after work hours and on weekends with her to present clothes, rice, sugar, salt, or school supplies to local people and students. Gradually, the female Vietnamese officer became close to the locals who then agreed to take joint photos with her, something that was previously forbidden. Nga also taught them how to make Vietnamese-style coffee and brew hibiscus tea as a refreshing drink.

Nga then discussed with Vibike to create jobs for local women to ensure that they would still know how to earn a living when she finished her term and returned to Vietnam. On every Friday afternoon, Nga and her companion provided local women with a little money as capital and guided them on how to make and sell iced coffee for the mission’s staff. By the time when Nga finished her term and returned to Vietnam in early 2019, there were about 15 women in Juba who could earn a living by selling coffee.

Spreading image of Vietnam to the world

In May 2022, Nga returned to South Sudan in the position as the Deputy Director of the Level-2 Field Hospital Rotation 4. As the unit’s cadre, the woman aspired to boost the solidarity within the hospital’s members and spread a beautiful image of Vietnam to international friends. During the term, together with co-directing the hospital’s operations, Nga organized a series of events, including activities on the occasion of the Lunar New Year 2023, healthcare programs, activities for women on the Women’s Day, and visiting and presenting gifts to hospitals, schools... in Bentiu. These practical activities left strong impression on international colleagues and local people.

The unforgettable memories during her second time in South Sudan were activities held on the the occasion of the Lunar New Year 2023. Despite difficulties and lack of resources, the hospital's departments were divided into four teams to compete in a cooking competition, during which they made traditional dishes and decorated Tet stalls... International friends were excited at experiencing making "banh chung" (square glutinous rice cake) and making nem (spring rolls) for the first time, enjoying Vietnamese traditional dishes, flying kites, and having campfires with Vietnamese officers.

On the New Year’s Eve, everyone, regardless of skin color or nationality, held hands and together sang songs in praise of the peaceful and beautiful country and people of Vietnam. At that moment, the woman felt proud of being a Vietnamese and was determined to wholeheartedly devote to the peacekeeping missions.

For her achievements, Col. Nga was awarded the Certificates of Merits by the Prime Minister in 2019 and 2022, the Defense Minister in 2019, and the Vietnam Women's Union in 2019 and 2020. She was presented with certificates of merits and medals by the U.N. multiple times and was honored as one of the 50 exemplary people in observing laws by the Ministry of Justice in 2023.

Translated by Tran Hoai