Family lives on financial edge in Four Seasons’ shadow

by Amy Kingsley

H. Phuong Nie lives with her four children in a small clapboard house near the Four Seasons Mall in Greensboro. From the narrow road bordered by mailboxes and drainage ditches, the shouts of children playing can be heard.

But the inside of the sparsely furnished house tells a different story. The family, Montagnards who moved to Greensboro from Vietnam six months ago, struggles to make ends meet.

Nie is the daughter of a Montagnard woman and an American serviceman who served in the Vietnam War and left the country before her birth. Mixed-race children like Nie suffer discrimination in Vietnam and are often unable to attend school or obtain work.

Her husband is also Montagnard, and left the family to pursue seasonal work in either construction or agriculture in Florida.

Translator Y. Bhim said the family has fallen through the cracks and lacks access to basic government assistance like food stamps and Medicaid that are usually available to refugees. Agencies like Lutheran Family Services and the Montagnard-Dega Association are overwhelmed with families of new arrivals that are falling behind, Y. Bhim said, but he emphasized that this family’s condition is critical.

Right now, Nie is rationing milk for her youngest, 2-year-old Y. Song Pieng, who traipses around the house in sagging underwear. Training pants are too expensive. Y. Bhim said the family is seeking help from a church or community group until the father can find more stable employment and can fully support his family.