Mid-Autumn festival shows warmth of love for disadvantaged children
This year’s Mid-Autumn festival helped hundreds of children affected by drug abuse and HIV/AIDS in Hai Phong feel the love of the community and the friendship of other children.
Le Chan district in Hai Phong is home to a large number of HIV/AIDS child victims. We visited Hai Phong in the run-up to the Mid-Autumn festival. On the occasion, the HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Centre in Hai Phong, the Hai Phong City People's Committee, the Standard Chartered Bank and the Centre for Community Health and Development (COHED) jointly organised a charity programme for orphans and vulnerable children (OVC), including children affected by drug abuse and HIV/AIDS. We had a chance to hear the moving stories told by disadvantaged children themselves.
"I wish I could have friends to play with ..."
When I asked about her family, Nguyen Ba Nhung, an 8th grade student at Nguyen Ba Ngoc junior high school in Le Chan District, said: “My father died a long time ago, now I am living with my mum and my two brothers. My family is very poor as my mother does not have a job. We have almost no friends and feel very lonely. I know many others whose parents are living with HIV/AIDS suffer discrimination from the surrounding community.” Nhung burst into tears while telling her story and couldn’t say another word. I told her, “You are a good student who should not cry and be more confident in dealing with any circumstances. There are still many good people around you”. Nhung held my hands while wiping away her tears. “What’s your dream?” I asked. She was hesitant for a while and said, “I wish all children have friends. When I grow up, I want to be a policewoman to arrest all the bad guys like thieves and drug traffickers”.
Vu Van Huy, a second-grade pupil at Cat Bi primary school, was timid and did not dare to sit on the front row. I came to him and asked, “Why do not you join your friends to have a Mid-Autumn party?”, Huy stammered, “I have AIDS and I am scared. My father passed away and my mother left me. My family has three sisters, but I must go to Thanh Xuan social support school to get an opportunity to attend classes as I am contracted with HIV/AIDS.” I was afraid of asking him further questions; I just held his hands tightly, and said: “You should strive to be a good student.” Huy quietly replied: “Yes”.
I saw a tiny little girl standing by her grandfather. She was so quiet and held her grandfather’s hands. I talked to the old man, who said: “My granddaughter is called Tran Thi Hoang Yen. She is 10 years old and very shy”. Yen is living with her grandparents in Dong Hai ward of Le Chan District. She is also a HIV patient whose father died of the deadly virus at a young age. Yen confided, “I have not seen my father yet. My mother is seriously ill at home. My grandfather takes me here to receive a Mid-Autumn gift. I will show my gift to my mum”. Yen told me that no one loves her except her grandparents. She said she wants to follow in her grandfather’s footsteps to be a tailor.
Tears are flowing ...
There was an old woman with grey eyes sitting by underprivileged children. Her name is Vu Hong Thuy, a resident in Hieu ward. She is the grandmother of Nguyen Thi Ha.
Ms. Thuy said, “Ha’s father has been addicted for more than 10 years. Knowing that her husband was addicted, his wife left home. Now I am 72 years old and have to support both my son and granddaughter with my monthly pension. Our daily life is very hard”.
“Every day we have to face discrimination from the neighborhood. At school, Ha also does not have any friends just because of her addicted father. I don’t know what to do to bring her up as I am getting older and older,” she elaborated.
Sitting next to the old woman is Quach Thi Thanh, who also could not prevent her tears flowing from her sorrowful eyes. Her husband has been a drug user for over 10 years. Talking about HIV, she choked with tears: “I am sorry for my little daughter who is now just less than 10 years old. No one wants to play with my innocent daughter. Now I have to take care of my health to bring her up”.
Our story was interrupted when magician Phuoc Huynh started. The eyes of these disadvantaged children were lit up with the colourful stage. We also enjoyed the cozy atmosphere with them. Especially, when gifts were presented to them, it seemed that there was no distance or separation. Their parents were happy to see their children excited and integrated with other children.
Having witnessed the scene and listened to their heart-felt stories, we understand the wishes and expectations of underprivileged children, especially those who are victims of HIV/AIDS. Even though life is still difficult, this Mid-Autumn festival, the light of their innocent eyes and the brilliant smile on their lips showed their happiness when these children were singing songs in the arms of love and friendship of many kind-hearted people.