Tuesday , February 7 2023

Remember the good times: uplifting stories from 2022


A 93-year-old woman donating her calf-length hair for cancer patients and a man rowing across the sea to reunite with his wife are among this year’s most inspirational feel-good stories.

1. Orphan meet his parents in heartwarming fashion

Vietnamese parents get to meet son thought dead after 18 years

Vietnamese parents get to meet son thought dead after 18 years. Video by Vu Thinh Tam Tue

A Vietnamese-American boy who was suffering from hemangioma when he was adopted by an American couple 18 years ago reunited with his biological mother in the southern province of Binh Phuoc Province last August.

Samuel Ian Ettore, whose Vietnamese name is Nguyen Le Hung, was born to Nguyen Thi Lien in 2004. Lien had been expecting twins when her membranes ruptured and initiated the premature birth of her two boys. The babies had to live the beginnings of their lives in incubators due to immune deficiencies and hemangioma.

Lien’s husband, Le Xuan Hung, was in charge of child care in the days that followed. But he abandoned them at the hospital because he couldn’t afford to pay for treatment. He returned to the hospital more than a month later, but the children had already been taken away by social services.

He was informed that the older child had been sent to an orphanage in HCMC’s Go Vap District. The hospital was unable to locate the younger child, leaving Hung unsure if the baby boy was alive or dead.

The family visited the orphanage several times trying to take back their child, but the staff warned them his illness was severe and he would die without treatment abroad.

In 2005, Hope Ettore and her husband visited the orphanage and expressed a desire to adopt Samuel and take him back to the U.S. for treatment.

They were in tears after a surgeon successfully removed a tumor that had been threatening the boy’s life.

Samuel with Hope Ettore (third from right) and his adoptive family in a family photo in 2022. Photo courtesy of Hope Ettore

Samuel with Hope Ettore (third from right) and his adoptive family in a family photo in 2022. Photo courtesy of Hope Ettore

Samuel’s adoptive parents told him his origin story when he was old enough to understand.

Ettore posted her adopted son’s information online in both English and Vietnamese at the end of May this year with the help of a Vietnamese college friend. A woman in Binh Phuoc spotted the post, and Hope and Samuel were able to locate and contact Lien within 24 hours.

When the Americans finally met the Samuel’s Vietnamese family, he leapt out of the car and ran to hug his mother. The mother and son then wept together, according to Hope.

“I don’t anticipate Samuel returning to live with me,” Lien said. “I only hope that Hope lives a long time so Samuel can repay her with filial piety for raising him.”

Samuel, now18, and his adoptive mother returned to America after two days to prepare for his upcoming semester at university. He promised to visit his biological parents again in the future.

2. Big hearts donate hair to cancer patients

Nguyen Thi Lan before and after cutting her hair at her home in Hanoi’s Nam Tu Liem District. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Nguyen

Nguyen Thi Lan before and after cutting her hair at her home in Hanoi’s Nam Tu Liem District. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Nguyen

Samaritans have been giving cancer patients “locks of hope” by donating hair to Breast Cancer Network Vietnam (BCNV).

Pham Thi Lan, a 93-year-old woman in Hanoi’s Nam Tu Liem District, had her hair cut for the first time in her life last July on the condition that “it be gifted to cancer patients.”

After seeing bald patients on TV, she wondered why “these women and girls don’t have hair”.

Her granddaughter explained that radiation treatment and chemotherapy had caused them to lose their hair.

Right then and there Lan immediately decided to donate her calf-length white hair to the cause.

BCVN is only one of many community projects in Vietnam soliciting hair donations for cancer patients.

BCVN has reported that over the last seven years the group has cooperated with some 14,000 hair donors to bring hair to more than 1,200 patients at medical facilities and hospitals across the country.

BCVN receives some 100 hair donations from across the country every day, the charity reported.

3. Reuniting overseas Vietnamese with families back home

Hong Phuc (L) poses for a photo in March with a member of a family whose daughter was separated 24 years ago. The family has since been reunited. Photo by courtesy of Phuc

Hong Phuc (L) poses for a photo in March with a member of a family whose daughter was separated 24 years ago. The family has since been reunited. Photo by courtesy of Phuc

Do Hong Phuc, a 27-year-old architect from Saigon, has spent the last three years helping estranged overseas Vietnamese find their parents and relatives in Vietnam.

On average, he receives two or three requests for assistance a month. Sometimes it takes Phuc only a few hours of research to find people. Other times it takes several weeks of commitment and dedication to track people down via paper trials, interviews and investigating other clues like a detective.

Architects are famous for being workaholics, and Phuc works full time as an architect, but he also spends all his free time hunting for alienated family members whose relatives miss them and have reached out for his help. Phuc’s friends also often volunteer to help him conduct research and interpret or translate interviews, as many overseas Vietnamese no longer speak their mother tongue.

Phuc admits that he’s gotten used to facing dead ends when his leads turn cold, but he follows up on every hunch because the joy of reuniting families that have been separated by a vast ocean is “priceless” to him.

He has successfully reconnected 20 families over the last three years.

“I’ll keep doing this as long as I have the energy and others ask me to,” he said, adding he doesn’t accept money or thank you gifts.

4. Husband paddles across sea to reunite with wife

The Thai Navy rescues Ho Hoang Hung from his inflatable boat on the Phang-nga coast, March 23, 2022. Photo courtesy of Thai Navy

The Thai Navy rescues Ho Hoang Hung from his inflatable boat on the Phang-nga coast, March 23, 2022. Photo courtesy of Thai Navy

Ho Hoang Hung proved that love can make you do crazy things. The 37-year-old set off on a quest to see his wife in India by paddling from Thailand across the ocean in an inflatable boat.

According to previous reports, he paddled toward India to reunite with his Indian wife who lives in Mumbai. The married couple hasn’t seen each other for more than two years because of the Covid-19 outbreak.

He arrived at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport from HCMC in March and intended to book a flight to India. But when he learned that he would need a visa to enter India, he took a bus to Phuket and bought an inflatable boat.

Officials said his 2.5-meter boat was filled with about a dozen packets of instant noodles, a nearly-empty water bottle, and a suitcase.

He was rescued by the Thai Navy off the west coast of Thailand’s after 18 days at sea.

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