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Thao’s Library Project

Thao is a 25-year-old Vietnamese woman born with severe life-threatening birth defects as a result of the defoliant Agent Orange. Nearly 40 years after the war, this deadly toxin continues to exact its devastating toll on a new generation of victims. Despite her crippling physical deformities, Thao has created a library for the children of her village from found and donated materials. When the photojournalist who captured the image below asked Thao, “If you could have anything in the world, what would it be?” Thao replied, “Three hundred dollars, so I could buy more books for my library.” Thao dreams of one day expanding this library, allowing the less fortunate of her community a chance to broaden their minds through the secret world of books.

The Purpose Project set off to Vietnam to meet Thao and deliver a suitcase filled with books, exceeding her original $300 request.

We discovered a village on the verge of change where children who are first generation readers rush to explore the written word at Thao’s small library. Her library is perched on makeshift shelves in a building where toxic fertilizer and pig feed are also stored. Thao and the children in their quest for knowledge breathe in these toxic fumes everyday.

In orphanages, we meet children whose bodies are ravaged by Agent Orange. There, too, is Thao’s family whose love outshines the poverty surrounding them, and of course there is Thao, who has a simple dream to expand her library, cultivating literacy in her community, creating a legacy that will live on for the children of her village.

After returning from Vietnam, The Purpose Project created a video to help raise money for Thao’s library, we held a fundraiser, sent out countless emails and made phone calls, all with the mission to build Thao and the children of the village a new library.

We were able to successfully transform Thao’s former library into a brand new safe and solid structure. Mini Coba’s Library (as Thao is known throughout the village) is complete with new bookshelves, furniture, art supplies, computer, lots and lots of books and a sign out front. A separate shed was created to house the fertilizer and pig feed.

The Documentary

The Purpose Project along with Hammy Features completed the feature length documentary film Thao’s Library, released nationwide in AMC Theatres the Autumn of 2015. Please visit, for updates on screenings and the upcoming DVD and VOD release.


The Solo Show

In the multi-media stage performance of The Purpose Project, which has appeared on college campuses and theaters throughout the US, our founder Elizabeth tells the story of how she and Thao met. Stage and film tell the story of two unlikely friends brought together, forging a bond that eventually changes both of their lives forever.