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The Gift of Healing, 17 Years in the Making

Tran has a closely guarded secret that’s only known to the people living with her.  She’s HIV positive.  Tran has carried the virus ever since she was born, passed on to her by parents that both died of AIDS.  After Tran’s mother passed away, she lived with her grandmother and aunt until they could no longer care for her and brought her to Mai Tam shelter.  Tran was 8 years old at the time.

Tran loved school. Smart, diligent, and determined, she navigated her classes with ease. The joy of being able to go to school and then go home to a place where she was loved and cared for was a dream come true for Tran. Yet her heart was always heavily weighed down by her secret. The stigma against people with HIV in Vietnam was pervasive, most evident when a landlord evicted Father Toai and the children after discovering the kids had AIDS. This rejection, first by her family and then by society, was painful and traumatic. Nobody at school, students or teachers, knew Tran carried the disease. At times, they were curious about her orphan status, but Tran kept the fact that she was HIV positive to herself. The fear of being discovered and eventually ostracized by her schoolmates made Tran anxious, lonely, and sad. The only place of comfort for Tran was her home at Mai Tam House of Hope.

Mai Tam is indeed a place of comfort for Tran and other children infected with or affected by AIDS/HIV. With nurturing care from staff, including foster mothers, nurses, cooks, and educators, the children continue to grow and prosper. Intensive health and HIV/AIDS care with antiviral therapies had brought the children’s viral loads to nearly undetectable levels in most cases, making them less vulnerable to illness. Community volunteers offer free yoga, music, and art lessons to enhance their life skills and self-esteem. Since 2008, Christmas for Breakfast has been doing its part by providing annual funding for meals, all with the goal of helping these outcast children heal physically and emotionally.

Tran is now 25 years old. After graduating from college, she moved out of Mai Tam to make room for the next generation of college and vocational students. She is living on her own, working as an accountant for a company, and taking good care of her health. No one at work knows of her illness still.

At times, Tran visits her grandmother and aunt, who still live in poverty. Tran lives modestly so she can save money and give her grandmother what she can. When asked if these visits helped her heal the wound of being given up 17 years ago, Tran nodded. “Yet my heart is still pierced, not because of that wound but because I’m angry at myself for not being able to do more for my grandmother and to help Father Toai so the children at Mai Tam will grow up to be happy, healthy, successful people. If given the opportunity, I wish to further my education so I can make more money and be of better help to them,” Tran said.

Yes, love heals. Your generosity and unwavering support for children like Tran over the past 17 years through Christmas for Breakfast had made a tremendous impact on their lives.  One by one, we see them heal, thrive, then give back.  Together, we empowered their dreams and propelled them into a new, higher way of living: A life of second chances.  


One Big Family

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