It all started in 2005 with a visit to my home town of Saigon, Vietnam. My mum told me about her desperate work to support a local HIV/AIDS hospice and orphanage (Mai Hoa Centre), an HIV outpatient’s clinic (Tieng Vong Group), and a handicapped children’s centre (Thien Phouc Centre).
Not long after my visit, it was my birthday, so rather than my friends giving me gifts, I asked if they wouldn’t mind auctioning gifts or unwanted items to raise a few dollars for the three centres back in Saigon. We raised AU$750! By 2010 we had our inaugural annual fundraiser with close to AU$20,000 raised.
In 2005, the centres were treating just over 100 people. Unfortunately, today we have to treat close to 3,000 patients with the numbers increasing each year. Medical costs in Vietnam have increased, there is no free health care system and there continues to be a stigma associated with HIV/AIDS as well as disabilities.