1968, a 24-year-old actor named Dick Hughes, living and working in Boston (MA)
& troubled by the prosecution of the Vietnam War, decided
to refuse induction into the armed forces and go to Viet Nam on
his own "to do something to help the people there". He secured a
journalist's visa through the Boston University News (page 1,page 2), raised the necessary airfare through friends &
flew to Saigon to see the war for himself. The upshot was The Shoeshine
Boys Project, an eight-year [1968-76] privately-funded, Vietnamese-run effort
in the cities of Saigon & DaNang.
Beginning with eleven "dust of life" (page 1, page 2, page 3, page 4, page 5, page 6) as they were called by the Vietnamese, street-children, Hughes and a fellow journalist , Don Ronk, who had had a previous rapport with homeless children in DaNang, set up shop in their spacious, tiled-floor Pham-Ngu-Lao Street apartment , providing blankets, shower facilities, floor sleeping-space and whatever food the two Americans and their charges could round up. When some of the kids were picked up by the police and taken to Te Ban detention center, Hughes & a few Vietnamese friends promptly went to get them released and returned to Pham-Ngu-Lao house. After one year, Don Ronk having decided to move on to the Philippines and a NGO offering to salary a Vietnamese student to help out, the numbers of Pham-Ngu-Lao residents increased and other students & professionals started to take over Hughes' work, opening new, more structured homes for the "dust of life" children, leaving their street-life behind to get schooling & other work.
By war's end, in April 1975, the project - now called The Association to Give Assistance to Homeless Children (CTTGTNSNHP) and Hughes' support work under the aegis of a small, New York-based Shoeshine Boys Foundation - had eight homes; six in Saigon and two in DaNang, including two farms and a technical-teaching center, caring - at any one time - for approximately three-hundred children. Starting in 1970, support for the effort had come almost entirely from stories journalist friends of Hughes in Saigon didand media trips he took to the United States [*add some media?*], plus full-page"Help Dick Hughes" adsdesigned & run in major magazines free-of-charge. Back in Viet Nam, the effort (a.k.a. "Pham Ngu Lao Project") continued to grow in the early 70s and was able to start returning some of the children to their families & home towns as only an indigenous effort could do. Despite the many crises attendant to running a social welfare effort and the chaos of war, "Pham Ngu Lao" became one of the few successful, Vietnamese-managed, foreign-funded projects of the Vietnam War.
The same imperative that linked "Long/Liem" with the earlier "Pham Ngu Lao Project" also explains the progress & continuity in the Loose Cannons, Inc. work on "Agent Orange", i. e., a natural extension of Hughes' and others' ongoing commitment to healing the wounds of The Vietnam War. In addition, the original effort [1968-76] provided contacts & venues that the participants would feel remiss in not exploiting to facilitate the current effort. Loose Cannons, Inc. is not only a successor of sorts to "Pham Ngu Lao"; the principals believe it also possesses, because of that work, some unique opportunities to raise awareness about problems in ways not usually available to other non-profits [ads, media stories, celebrity contacts].