TORONTO - One of the last things Cathy Huynh conveyed to her friend Jetty Ly was her desire to travel to Vietnam.
It was there the 26-year-old — originally from Hamilton but teaching English in South Korea — died of respiratory failure last Wednesday from suspected food posioning.
“One of the last messages ... ‘At the end of my contract I want to travel around only to a few places though ... Vietnam will definitely be one of them ...’ In my mind Cathy, you will just be travelling,” Ly wrote on her Facebook a day after Huynh’s death.
“For those who knew and loved her, Cathy not only loved to party but she was the party.”
While Huynh’s relatives are making funeral arrangements in Nha Trang, the Vietnamese coastal city she was visiting, Ly and other friends in the GTA have begun impromptu fund-raising efforts to help ease the family’s financial burden to bring her body to Canada.
“As Cathy’s friends ... we decided to start up a small fund-raising campaign to alleviate the unexpected costs that the Huynh family has had to bear, and it has since grown to some amazing numbers,” reads the description of a Facebook event, Bring Cathy Huynh Home.
The goal is to raise $40,000. As of Tuesday afternoon, they had raised almost $17,000.
The money will go towards paying for flights to Vietnam for her mother and brother, funeral arrangements, emergency visas and other costs.
“Cathy, wait just a little longer, we’re coming to bring you home,” her brother, Michael, posted on his Facebook on Friday.
“If I was ever hard on you it was because I was weak, if I was ever mean to you, it was to make you have thicker skin... but the one thing I never told you was, that you were the stronger one and that I was proud of you.”
Huynh went to Cathedral High School in Hamilton and graduated Brock University in St. Catharines in 2010. She had a Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) certificate and said she loved working with kids and volunteering around her community.
“In the future I hope to become an elementary school teacher,” Huynh wrote on a Korean teachers database.
“I think traveling abroad will help me experience teaching young children — also I will get to learn a new culture. I am independent, reliable and very opened minded to trying new things.”
Huynh was travelling in Vietnam with Karin Joy Bowerman, a 27-year-old American friend who fell ill on July 30 and died of respiratory failure.
Huynh was in stable condition when she was hospitalized Aug. 1, the head of Khanh Hoa Province Hospital told Vietnames newspaper Tuoi Tre News, but appeared to develop shock, which became worse until her final moments.