We were in Saigon over the 2014 Christmas break and visited all three Centres with the highlight of the trip bringing a group of 40 Chop Vietnam friends and family from Australia, Hong Kong and Spain – many of whom have supported the cause from day 1 and for most this was their first time to the Centres.
HIV/AIDS Orphanage & Hospice – The Mai Hao Centre – we donated some children’s clothes, toys, books and Chop Vietnam donations of HK$20,000 (AU$3,400) and on-the-spot donations by those in our group. While there another local group brought donations of food. We inquired why the number of orphans is still the same as previous years, and advised that 18 is maximum number of orphans they can take, given the large number of adult patients requiring complex medical treatments. The Centre’s funds and accommodation simply cannot stretch any more. They are however hoping to build a new orphanage next door that would enable the children to grow up in a less confronting environment as well as take in more orphans.
Handicapped Childrens Centre – Thien Phouc Centre – we donated some children’s clothes, toys, and Chop Vietnam donation of HK$20,000 (AU$3,400) plus some on-the-spot donations from our group. We met with Sister Lan, who has been running the Centre for many years. She advised they are at maximum capacity of 70 children aged from 2-18 years old. Due to government regulations they can only keep children up to 12-14 years old, but as most of the children are severely disabled and abandoned by their families, they have nowhere else to go. She told us the Centre is being returned to the landlord, but a new permanent Centre is being built about 2Km away on church-owned land, costing approx. US$350K. It’s based on the same layout of the existing Centre but bigger, so they can take more patients. The basic elements of the new Centre is nearly complete, but some of the utility rooms such as laundry, kitchen, storage areas) are not yet being built due to funding constraints. Many in our group were confronted by the harsh reality of the Centre and found it difficult, but all agreed it was a sobering and worthwhile experience.
HIV Outpatients Clinic – Tieng Vong Group Clinic – the clinic still has no license or Doctor so it operates on a limited basis for 3 days a week (Mon, Wed & Fri). Chris & Lam were the only ones who visited the Centre on this occasion, and donated HK$20,000 (AU$3,400) from Chop Vietnam. The Clinic still has major cracks in the wall, with no immediate plans to fix them or build a new clinic. Ms Vinh had a full house of patients with all beds occupied including a long-term patient Ms Nga – who was receiving drip fluid treatment as she was feeling weak and has chronic asthma, but overall she was in fine spirits. She told us she had received good news and photos of her daughter who is now 12 years old, growing tall and well looked after by her adopted Italian family. She is happy for her daughter but also misses her. Ms Nga is doing well and now lives in the local community and has a small coffee shop that helps pay her rent and food. We also met a gorgeous young baby boy and his parents. Ms Vinh explained their remarkable story – the mum already had four children and fell pregnant with this her fifth. But given her and her husband’s HIV+ status, ill health and poor background, she felt she could not proceed with the pregnancy. Ms Vinh convinced her to carry on and gave her some financial support from the clinic. After her boy was born, she still felt she couldn’t support the child and wanted to give him up for adoption, but again Ms Vinh convinced her to spend some time with her child, plus some more financial support. Now after nearly 2 years, she totally loves her child and will not give him up for anything. Good news is that both her and husband are in much better health and have steady jobs to support the family.
In addition to the Chop Vietnam donations given during this visit, we have received approx. AU$11,430 in additional donations at the end of 2014 as follows:
- Louise Flanagan raised AU$2,500 while packing up her home in HK to return to Australia.
- Stephen Anderson in Macau raised HK$4,000 (AU$680) from patrons in his Macau bar.
- Donations via Australia = AU$5,330
- Donations via HK = HK$31,000 (AU$5,300)
- Donations via EU = Euro 200 (AU$300)
We thank you all for continued support.
Much love & respect. Lam, Chris and the Chop Vietnam team.