The Children of Vietnam Benevolent Foundation (CVBF) is a registered Canadian charity (Registration no. 83508 3379 RR0001) founded in Edmonton, Alberta in June 2013. It was founded by members who came to Canada nearly forty years ago as refugees from the Vietnam War. It is difficult for many of them to see the continuing struggles of the children in Vietnam today when they themselves were fortunate enough, from the help of kind and generous Canadians, to have journeyed to and grown up in this land of opportunity.
Saturday, September 28, 2013 Inaugural Speech
By Dr. Nhung Tran-Davies
Good evening our dearest friends, families, and honoured guests. My name is Dr. Nhung Tran-Davies and I am most humbled to be in your presence tonight. It is hard to believe that a mere five months ago, a thought came to me while I was driving to work and today you are here as a part of that vision.
There is a story behind that vision, and the story began in the a rice field many moons ago. It is a story of a woman who worked the land until her hands bled and her feet were calloused. It is a woman who had bullets shot at her, who was blindfolded and dragged by soldiers, who had nothing after the bombs fell. Yet, she toiled the land and sewed garments by candlelight to feed her six children. She knew, though, that if there were hope for her children, that hope laid beyond the seas, and like so many of the parents here tonight, she sacrificed everything and hid us in a boat that stowed away in the hopes for a better future for her children.
That story continued with you. From across the seas, you reached out to a refugee camp and chose to sponsor this woman and her six children, a family that no other nations wanted, and you brought them to this land that we now call home, our Canada. And in this land, you have given us opportunities to have hopes and dreams. In this land, these hopes and dreams can be achieved through education, hard work, and determination. And this woman, like all parents here worked exhaustingly hard, balancing up to 2-3 jobs just so that we children had the opportunity to go to school, to learn, and to pursue our dreams.
Our family and many of the Vietnamese families here were the fortunate ones, for the story could have ended much differently for anyone of us. I was only five then, and so I didn’t know that there were boats that had set sail mere moments before us that were crushed by the angry waves, taking the lives of all on board — fathers, mothers, children — leaving families who remained on shore never knowing whatever became of their loved ones. And those who could not escape this war-torn landscape were faced with the task of rebuilding after decades of war.
Our people were more agriculturally based, and so it took decades for our country to regain its footing. Through the industriousness of our people, our Vietnam has indeed made great gains in its economy. Sadly, however, you need only walk down the broken, dusty streets, away from the tourist areas, to see the poverty that remains. The crumbling houses, the ragged clothes on thin, stooped silhouettes, the worned-out slippers under cracked heels, the coarsen hands upon rusty wheels. And not far from these sights are the children.
More than a million of these children are orphans. Children who have been deserted because their parents were unable to financially care for them. These children come to live in orphanages, waiting for someone, anyone to love them, to want them. And there are millions more children who live without opportunities to hope and dream because the reality is that hopes and dreams can not feed their hunger. Therefore, it is not uncommon for children in Vietnam to abandon their education to work in support of their family. It is not uncommon for high school students to forsake their dreams of a higher education for they have no financial means to fund this dream. And girls, especially, are still at risk of being trafficked for sexual and labour exploitation.
You can see why it is hard for us to sleep at night, for all of us at heart, are also the children of Vietnam, and to know that our little brothers and sisters back home are still struggling makes it difficult for us to be fully content in our day. Our parents have never let us forget our ties to our homeland, for they, by example, continue to individually send sums of money back home to help our remaining families and local temples. Over the years, we all have searched for ways to do more, but it was not until mom pointed out one day that she had seen myself going to various charity functions but none for our Vietnam, that an idea sparked. And that idea flamed into the realization that in this land of opportunity, we can do anything that comes from the heart, for Mother Theresa had said that ‘We can do no great things, only small things with great love.”
Forming the Children of Vietnam Benevolent Foundation is, therefore, a promise to you that we will be transparent and accountable, as we strive to maintain the utmost integrity and to honour the trust you have in us. It is our hope to raise awareness of the need and mobilize and distribute 100% of the funds raised to the children of Vietnam, for we would dishonour our homeland, if we neglected our heritage and the land from which we were born. We would dishonour our parents, if we did not pay forward the hardship that they’ve invested in us, and we would dishonour you if we did not pay forward the kindness that you have you have shown us.
As a medical doctor, I have had the privilege of working in an impoverished country in Africa and have held dying children in my arms. I have helped deliver babies in substandard conditions in my own Vietnam. I have worked with the inner city populations in Canada, and in my travels around the world I see poverty and despair. From the broken spirits of a child in my office to the conflicts and wars across the world, the one thing I see that will bring hope, health, justice, and peace is education.
And so, our mission is to improve the lives of these disadvantaged, impoverished children in Vietnam by giving them hope and opportunities through love, education, and the provision of basic needs. We will search out the deserted orphans in forgotten corners of villages and towns. We will search out the rural, mountainous areas for schools in need of books and desks. We will give them opportunities to learn, to develop their skills, to pursue their dreams. We will give them hope by keeping them healthy, by providing their basic needs, by loving them.
Five months ago, I asked a few primary school friends of common heritage to walk with me in this journey, and they embraced the idea and went above and beyond to help make this night happen, as they stayed up many nights and sacrificed time with their families on countless days. We reached out to you and you exceeded in kindness as you started quilting, building, painting for us to lay grounds for this Foundation. You searched the stores, you volunteered your time. You donated your hard earn money without a single question. You drove hundreds of kilometres, you rearranged your work schedules, birthday and anniversary parties just to be here for the children.
We know that there are so much need in the world, from Syria, to Africa, to India, to the inner cities of our own communities, and we know you are already selflessly working in your own admirable ways to better our world, but may we ask that you will also walk with us on this journey. That you may also not forget about our Vietnam. With you as a part of our Foundation, we will fulfill the vision of creating a better future for all children, and hence, contribute to a more equal society free from poverty, hatred, ignorance, and injustice. One of those children will change the world.