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Return to Tu Du Hospital

Return to Tu Du Hospital


Five years ago, I was fortunate enough to have volunteered in Hoa Binh Peace Village, the wing of Tu Du Hospital dedicated to caring for children living with disabilities. So returning there this week with VIET Fellows I was awash in memories and emotions. Nostalgia, excitement, curiosity—it was all there as I slowly made my way up to the third floor.

VIET Fellows was there that day to meet with Dr. Nguyen Thi Phuong Tan, Chief of the Rehabilitation Department. Before Tuesday, I had never met Dr. Phuong–we were never introduced when I was a volunteer. Waiting for her, I noticed a beautiful glass replica of an elaborate apricot tree tucked in the corner of the room. As I was admiring the craftsmanship of the tree, Dr. Phuong walked in accompanied by a man in a wheelchair. She revealed later that the tree was made by one of the residents of Hoa Binh Village as part of a vocational program ran by the Peace Village.

According to Dr. Phuong, there are other Peace Villages located in Vietnam. Hoa Binh Village got its start with financial assistance from groups of concerned Japanese citizens who saw the affects of Agent Orange/Dioxin in some of the children of Tu Du Hospital. It was because of their support that Anh Viet, the man in the wheelchair and born a conjoined twin, was able to have the operation that physically separated him from his brother. That operation, one of the first of its kind in Vietnam and led by a Vietnamese surgeon, has since allowed Anh Viet to travel back to Japan more than a dozen times as a Peace Ambassador for the hospital. More important than that, because of the strong support Anh Viet received in the past from Hoa Binh Peace Village, he is now a husband and father to two, healthy young twins.

Hoa Binh Peace Village has 20 people on staff that works around the clock to care for 60 plus children. Some children are long-term residents while others travel back and forth between their families and the Village. All of the children are required to attend school. If school proves to be unsuitable, they are given the option of learning a trade like wooden art design or creating glass figures like the one I mentioned above.

The meeting was relatively short but dense-full of information. Dr. Phuong permitted us to walk into a small room that stored the preserved bodies of still born fetuses affected by all manners of birth deformities. According to the doctor, they are used by the Hospital for research purposes. It was an eerie sight to see these small faces and bodies so still and quiet. Looking at these babies who never had a chance, it just drove home the fact that life is an incredible blessing. I saw four jars sitting empty on the bottom of a shelf as I made my way around the tiny room. You cannot help but immediately recognized their purpose for being there and what they represent.

I exited the room to follow the rest of the group to the fourth floor where the sounds of the Hoa Binh Village’s children could be heard. The slap of their feet on the tiles and voices contrasted greatly with the voiceless faces of the children I saw back in the small room. Their sweet natures and open acceptance of visitors like me made them a complete joy to be with for the time we had with them.

I left Hoa Binh Village and Tu Du Hospital much more reflective and somber than I entered. Knowing what I know about Agent orange/Dixon, the visit just reaffirmed my belief that just because the last bullet or mortar was spent does not mean the fighting and suffering was over. Hoa Binh Village and its storied history is a testament to that fact.


One comment

  • Kathy Nguyen says:

    Beautiful article! I was just wondering how do you get information on how to volunteer at this hospital? Thank you very much

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