Charity organization Maison Chance (Lucky House) not only provides the housing and food to locals living with disabilities, but also helps them gain the necessary skills to live independent lives.
On French Volunteering Day, an annual event held this year on October 20, French volunteers working in Vietnam chose Maison Chance as the beneficiary for their day of giving.
Maison Chance was established in 1993 after Aline Rebeaud, a Swiss artist, came to Vietnam and was touched by an unfortunate child she met on the street.
Rebeaud eventually secured Vietnamese citizenship and renamed herself Hoang Nu Ngoc Tim.
To the residents at Maison Chance, she is simply “Mom Tim.”
Maison Chance primarily operates as a network of three facilities each targeting separate needs of Ho Chi Minh City’s disabled residents, in particular housing, education, and training.
Since its inception, the organization has expanded to Dak Nong Province in the Central Highlands, where it continues its mission to help locals in need.
Striving for independent lives
Over the past 25 years, Maison Chance has established charity schools, kindergartens, housing projects, and workplaces for disadvantaged individuals who, for one reason or another, have found themselves in situations where they are unable to take care of themselves.
While most charities provide the handicapped, elderly, and children with housing and necessities, Maison Chance’s mission is to support those in need by equipping them with useful skills to lead independent lives, including painting, informatics, cooking, and foreign languages.
Depending on each person’s limitations, capabilities, and interests, Maison Chance residents can choose which skills and jobs they want to explore.
The residents use those skills and jobs to earn money, a modest portion of which goes toward rent and a financial contribution to the organization, depending on each person’s income and spending.
Unlike other centers where people are grouped together based on their disability, Maison Chance offers help to a broad spectrum of disadvantaged people, a pillar of its vision to promote learning through diversity.
Visitors to Maison Chance are often surprised at the positive attitudes and proactive approaches its members incorporate into their daily lives.
Even though the residents are disabled, they are full of laughter, positivity, and determination, owing to the fact that they are able to take care of themselves, have the means to work toward their dreams, and be proactive in their lives.
According to Rebeaud, the center strives to give people the means to live the best life their limitations allow.
Most importantly, it gives them a chance to prove themselves, one of the things a handicapped person needs the most, despite it being a need heavily ignored by society.
As a family, apart from materialistic support, Maison Chance is a place many consider to be their true home, according to Rebeaud.
Inspiring the volunteers
On their visit to Lucky Village, one of Maison Chance’s main facilities in Ho Chi Minh City, French Volunteering Day participants had an opportunity to meet some of the center’s handicapped residents and experience first-hand some of their handcrafting work.
“We tried to look for a project that works in different areas so that [the volunteers] can observe and learn from the residents,” Nguyen Thi Thuy Huong, head of France Volontaire, an agency which places French volunteers abroad and foreign volunteers in France.
“Thanks to this trip, one of the volunteers says she now has more ideas for starting her own project to help handicapped people.”
The volunteers’ efforts to participate in several social activities have been recognized by French Consul General in Ho Chi Minh City Vincent Floreani.
The envoy emphasizes that such contributions not only make social changes, but also are crucial in developing France – Vietnam diplomatic relations.
Besides bringing French volunteers into Vietnam, France Volontaire has begun bringing Vietnamese volunteers to France to do social work and participate in various activities.
“The question to be asked if you wish to do charity work is less about what you can bring to the country or the people, but what volunteering will bring to yourself as a professional and individual,” Julien Guillaume, a French volunteer in Vietnam for the past three years, shared of the lessons he has learned doing social work in Vietnam.
“This experience in Vietnam taught me, among other things, how to manage and evolve with people from other cultures and how to stay true to my values and my vision despite the difficult context of the problems.
“I also wish to go back to France and have an impact on my country’s future. Indeed, the world is now a global world. Politics and decisions taken at home have a real impact on the rest of the planet.”