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Thien Nhan & Friends program brings hope to unlucky children

by VOV511 August 2019 Last updated at 17:12 PM

Minh Phuong (in yellow) performs at the concert 'Now and then'
Minh Phuong (in yellow) performs at the concert 'Now and then'

VTV.vn - Thien Nhan & Friends program was established 8 years ago to help organize genital reconstruction surgeries for Vietnamese children suffering severe urological birth defects and rare urological conditions.

Over the past 8 years, the program has gathered growing support from the public helping unlucky Vietnamese children to have a normal life.

“Cherry blossom bay’ composed by Vietnamese songwriter Do Bao is performed by 17-year-old Vietnamese zither musician Do Minh Phuong with the piano accompaniment of her friend Viet Anh. Phuong is performing in a concert called ‘Now and then,’ which she organized herself.

The concert aims to raise funds for the Thien Nhan & Friends program. It gives Phuong a completely different feeling from any other concert she has participated in.

“For other concerts, it’s just about performing," Phuong said, "But this concert is about my heart and sharing with other people. I also want to show people how special traditional music is.”

It all started after Phuong read a book about “Miracle Baby” Thien Nhan, an infant discarded at birth and left to die in a jungle. He suffered traumatic amputation of his genitals and lost one leg from a brutal mauling by wild animals.


 Miracle Baby Thien Nhan gets ready for his operation with his adoptive mother, Mai Anh, on his side in 2011 (Photo: Thien Nhan & Friends)

"Miracle Baby" Thien Nhan gets ready for his operation with his adoptive mother, Mai Anh, on his side in 2011 (Photo: Thien Nhan & Friends)

Tran Mai Anh, a young mother of two living in Hanoi, adopted him when he was two years old. She took him to many doctors in Vietnam and abroad for reconstructive surgery. Mai Anh is also the co-founder of the Thien Nhan & Friends program.

She recalled how she felt when Phuong offered to hold a fund-raising concert for Thien Nhan and other patients: “Teenagers like Minh Phuong tend to pay the greater part of their attention on their studies and friends. But Phuong is different. She told me that she found inspiration and a sense of deeper humanity in Thien Nhan & Friends and she wanted to organize a fund-raising program featuring her own music. As a mother, I would be very pleased to have a daughter with such a good heart. I promised to give her as much support as possible.”

Minh Phuong’s fund-raising concert is one of various contributions that help the Thien Nhan & Friends program keep going since its establishment in 2011. The program has continuously received requests of children in need and donations to help them get free operations by Italian and American doctors led by Dr. Roberto De Castro.

In 2000, Dr. Castro introduced a new technique for total genital reconstruction which had been previously considered almost impossible. He then started receiving young patients from all over the world. That was when he first met Mai Anh and Thien Nhan.

“Mai Anh came to Italy with her child and I performed the operation on him," said Roberto, "We became instant friends. They are very special people. We thought about the possibility of helping many other Vietnamese children, with me going to Vietnam and performing surgery for them there. This was the beginning of ten intensive years of work in Vietnam for me and later for a team of surgeons."

"Ten years of successful work in the biggest three cities of Vietnam. Wonderful experience. Not easy. Sometimes challenging. Good people, made up of Vietnamese and Italian teams working hard together as volunteers for this extremely demanding job. They do it just for the pleasure of doing it, for the pleasure of helping children to have a better quality of life,” he added.


 Doctor Roberto De Castro and his patient (Photo: Thien Nhan & Friends)

Doctor Roberto De Castro and his patient (Photo: Thien Nhan & Friends)

Since August 2011, the group of Italian and American voluntary doctors have travelled to Vietnam 13 times performing 410 surgeries and making more than 1,500 evaluations. Their 14th mission will take place this November in Hanoi, Da Nang and Ho Chi Minh City.

The Thien Nhan & Friends program has received support not only from doctors but also from people from all walks of life.

Mai Anh said, “Many years ago, there was a construction worker who came to my house after work to donate money for Thien Nhan’s upcoming operation. He was ashamed of his clothes and shoes and didn’t want to come inside. He offered to donate 50,000 VND (about 2 USD). It was a small amount of money to many people, but not to a construction worker like him. I couldn’t reject it, because it came from his heart. It’s a moment I will never forget.”

Ashley Walker (left) and her daughters perform at the fund-raising concert
Ashley Walker (left) and her daughters perform at the fund-raising concert

All the way from the US, Ashley Walker, an adoptive mother of 2 Vietnamese girls, was touched by the story of Thien Nhan and the program. She and her two daughters also joined Minh Phuong on stage, playing traditional music with the Vietnamese zither to raise funds for the program.

She said, “It’s a compelling, heart-breaking, and heart-warming story about this child who has found a new family and is getting the support he needs to lead a full life. That’s something that appeals to me particularly as an adoptive parent. I’m glad that this work will carry on to help other children.”

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