In 1993, Aline Rebeaud, a 21-year-old painter from Switzerland visited Vietnam for the first time while she was touring Asia. At the time, the young girl didn’t know that in the next 25 years, the foreign country would become her second homeland.
The underpriviledged people have held Tim back in Vietnam. Source: Maison Chance
A destined trip
As part of her itinerary in Vietnam, Aline visited a psychiatric hospital, where she saw a junior patient was locked in a corner of the room. His name was Thanh, who, was not only suffering from mental disorder, but also servere heart, liver and lung problems. People there believed that his case had come to an uncurable stage.
Seeing the young lonely boy struggling with illness in such a poor condition, Aline knew that she couldn't walk away and decided to take Thanh to Nguyen Tri Phuong Cardiology Hospital (the nowadays Nguyen Tri Phuong hospital, District 5, HCMC). Since none of Thanh’s family members or relative were around, Aline had volunteered to take care of him, the stranger whose name was the only thing she knew.
Witnessing the unconditional love she had for Thanh, people in Nguyen Tri Phuong hospital began to call her “Tim” (means “heart” in Vietnamese, which is the symbol of love).
Under the care of Tim, three months later, like a miracle, Thanh got over his physical sickness and was finally discharged from the hospital.
Tim later rented a small shack in Ba Queo zone, Tan Binh district, where she not only took care of Thanh but many more other disadvantaged people like orphants, street kids, the handicapped. All of them lived on Tim’s saving, and the money she earned from selling her paintings.
The simple joy of Tim and her kid. Source: VN Express
It was hard to understand why a twenty-year-old girl, who was born and grew up in a wealthy family in Switzerland decided to extend her stay infinitely in a foreign country just to take care of underpriviledged people. It was hard to believe but Tim even didn’t mind to help patients who suffered from skin sore due to long-time stay in bed with their bodywash. All were neither her relatives nor friends and came from a country which she just set foot for a few months.
Devotion to the misfortunate
Tim's money began to drain out while the number of people who needed help kept piling up, so she chose to seek help from her family and friends, and later came up with the idea of founding Maison Chance Association – Lucky House, a charitable network with branches in France, US, Switzerland, etc, to mobilize supports from global Samaritans.
Thanks to the help of generous sponsors, by late 1994, Tim was able to purchase a piece of land in Binh Hung Hoa, Tan Binh district, where she built a shelter for the needy and name it Maison Chance.
In later years, the shelter was upgraded into a center where the disadvantaged received healthcare treatment, rehabilitation therapy and education.
Keeping in mind that the greatest support for the disadvantaged was empowering them to be self-reliant, in 1995, a special education program for Maison Chance’s beneficiaries was kick started.
Since then Maison Chance had grown beyond its initial concept of providing basic physical needs for marginalized people, but moreover, a school that taught them fine arts, embroidery, sewing, English language, provide rehabilitation service, etc.
In 1999, Maison Chance opened a vocation training program, which helped Maison Chance members acquire relevant skills in informatics, fashion and design, to ensure they could earn for a living by themselves after graduation.
Step by step, the vocation training program in Maison Chance was specialized. 7 years later, the Take Wing Center was established. Located 1 km away from Maison Chance, the center has different workshop serving trainees' learning and practice needs in different vocations: garment, painting, informatics, stone cutting and wooden handicraft.
Tim and her grandchild, a child of a handicapped person in Maison Chance. Source: Zing VN
In early 2011, the third affiliated center of Maison Chance was opened, namely Village Chance (Lucky Village). Village Chance is where affordable apartments tailored for the handicapped are located.
Unlike other flats in Maison Chance that was built previously, those in Village Chance was specially designed to make sure the handicapped can move around on their own, even under heavy rain. In the village, there is a large swimming pool providing physiotherapy treatment to the handicapped, a national-standard primary school, a kindergarten and a restautant managed by Maison Chance’s residents.
After the Village Chance was inaugurated in 2011, Maison Chance kick started a course to train disadvantaged youth on vocational skills. After completing the course, the students will be able to seek a job in Maison Chance (at the handicraft workshop, restaurant, bakery, guest house) or out of Maison Chance.
The most special feature of Maison Chance is its “openness". Every guest coming to Maison Chance, regardless of their nationalities, languages, ages, genders are always warmly welcomed with utmost friendliness.
While staying in Maison Chance guest house, they have the chance to befriend with residents here, together taking part in creative activities like painting, embroidery, cooking, flowers, trees planting, etc.
The guest fee later will be used to fuel the operation cost of Maison Chance.
Singapore Catholic Highschool learns to make stuffed animals at Maison Chance's sewing workshop. Source: Maison Chance
Thanks to its meaningful endeavor, every week, guests from across the globe are flocking to Maison Chance. They are students from Hannam University (Korea), Creighton University (US), Geneva University (Switzerland), Catholic Boy School (Singapore), International School of Brunei, among others.
While staying in Maison Chance, the young guests often take their time to mingle with the kids, teaching them language, culture, playing game, help repair Maison Chance's infrastructures, etc.
A stay in Maison Chance not only brings to the guests the joy of exploring a new place, but beyond that, helping them redefine happiness, something brought about by giving.
Making the impossible possible
Despite having spent 25 years on working relentlessly to bring fortunes to thousands lives, Tim never thought she has done enough.
She said, every time she starts working on a new project, people often says she is crazy. But Tim has proved them wherever a will is, a way will be found.
Recently Tim uploaded on her facebook a picture capturing from above the image of a newly built complex, located amidst the greenery of trees and plants, with a heart-shape swimming pool at the center. It was the latest project completed by Tim and her assistants: The Dak Nong Social Center in Krong No commune.
View from above of the Dak Nong Social center. Source: Tim Aline Rebeaud Facebook
Tim chose the locality to be her project site because the climate, topographical condition, suit the characteristics of the disabled, and there are a lot of people affected by dioxin/AO living in the area, whereas there is no official social center there.
Tim estimated that after the project was completed, 250 inpiduals will be benefited, including the handicapped and orphans, from Dak Nong province and Maison Chance in HCMC. The rest of the beneficiaries will be poor children who can not go to school due to family’s poverty, they will receive tertiary training and vocational training.
One special feature of the center is the use of animals in treatment, especially horses therapy. This is a new trend in the world’s medication, but remains new in Vietnam.
Tim’s dream has been step by step realized. On August 16, the Dak Nong social center has welcomed its 103 first members, bringing schooling opportunity to disadvantaged children, of which many are ethnic minorities./.
Quick facts about Maison Chance
- As a 10-year-old girl, Tim was taken to a library by her mom. Among thousands of books, Tim spontaneously picked up a book named “VietNam”.
- Tim has become a Vietnamese citizen. Her Vietnamese full name is Hoang Nu Ngoc Tim.
- Maison Chance is now a recognized NGO. It has over 70 members and many volunteers, including 11 foreigners who are always ready to work with Maison Chance.
-While working to carry out her Dak Nong project, Tim once had to stay in hospital due to exhaustion. In the last 5 years, Tim has been going forth and back between Vietnam and other countries to look for prospective partners and mobilize their sponsorship.
( Phi Yen )