August 30, 2012, ( – One day, Pham Thi Cuong, now 74, was going to the local market when she saw a black plastic bag covered in flies on the sidewalk. Unexpectedly, the bag moved when she walked past.

At first Cuong assumed that a local family must have discarded some animals, and walked past. But something made her turn back.

What she found made her sick. In the bag was a still-living newborn baby.  “Its body was black and blue and there were ants all over it. Such a painful sight,” she told VnExpress this week.


Cuong attempted to save the baby’s life, searching desperately around for a breastfeeding mother to feed the baby, but she failed, and the baby died. The experience, however, gave her a new mission in life.

The elderly woman now bicycles around, up to ten kilometers a day, looking for the bodies of abandoned or aborted babies. She then cleans them up and gives them a proper burial in a local cemetery, “so that their souls may find peace.”

Sadly, she is often successful in her search. So far, she has reportedly buried more than 4,000 babies.

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Cuong says that she often finds the bodies of the babies in plastic bags, thrown on the sidewalk like common rubbish. Often, she says, they are being consumed by animals.

“It gives me the chills,” she said. “But then I thought about their really short life of being abandoned, not even having a place to rest when they died, I still tried to bring them home.”

Because Pham is poor, some have told her she is wasting her time and should work on improving her own situation. But VnExpress reports that others have come to look on her as an “angel,” and one local man has even begun to join Pham in her searches.

Cuong’s story is eerily similar to that of Lou Xiaoying, an impoverished Chinese woman who made her living recycling trash. The Daily Mail reported last month that Xiaoying has discovered 30 living babies abandoned in dumpsters. In each case she has rescued the infants, and cared for them as her own children.

“I realized if we had strength enough to collect garbage, how could we not recycle something as important as human lives,” she said.

“These children need love and care,” she said. “They are all precious human lives. I do not understand how people can leave such a vulnerable baby on the streets.”