26/01/2019 00:01 GMT+7 print

Maison Chance, a story of love

Twenty-five years ago, Aline Rebeaud, a 21-year-old Swiss girl, travelled through Asia unaware that Vietnam would be part of her nearly-three-decade miraculous journey called Maison Chance.

In 1993, Aline Rebeaud, a young painter, arrived by chance at a psychiatric hospital in Thu Duc in the south of Vietnam where she met Tran Van Thanh, a 12-year-old-Vietnamese boy, who was seriously sick. She was instantly touched by this boy, who was chained and alone in the corner and had been given just a few days left to live. With heart, liver and lung problems, Thanh was in a terrible state. Confronted by this boy, Aline Rebeaud could not stand by and do nothing. She took him to the heart hospital and watched over the boy, day and night, for three months until he recovered. On the day Thanh was discharged from the hospital, Aline was given the name “Tim”, which means “heart” in Vietnamese, by the patients and doctors. 

The children at Maison Chance regard Tim as their mother.

Tim teaches children at Maison Chance.

Hoang Nu Ngoc Tim has helped many disadvantaged people in her nearly 30 years in Vietnam.

Tim has helped many people with disabilities find jobs to earn money on their own.

People with disabilities at Maison Chance have a chance to create works of art.

Tim is the spiritual support for unfortune people.

The center has a kindergarten for children of people with disabilities.

Tim poses with students at Maison Chance.
As Tim came and went from the hospital, she crossed paths with many people with disabilities. They were left unattended and completely ignored. Tim decided to welcome them under her roof, extending her stay in Vietnam indefinitely. Orphans, street children and people with disabilities found refuge in this shack in a poor suburb of Ho Chi Minh City. All formed a big family, with this young 21-year-old girl as their mother, ready for anything in order to help them. People from the area renamed the shelter “Maison Chance”.

In 1995, Tim started to fight for the education of Maison Chance beneficiaries. It was no longer only a question of providing a roof over their heads, but a question of educating them too. Literacy classes and an introduction to painting began. Simultaneously, a rehabilitation program for those with disabilities was put in place.

In 1999, the vocational training programs expanded. It was the beginning of information technology, sewing and textile design courses. The goal was to provide as many opportunities as possible for the disadvantaged children, orphans, street children and disabled to find their own voices.

In 2006, vocational training grew in scale. A center made specifically for training was established. The Take Wing center was born. Situated about 1km from the shelter, it consists of sewing, IT, woodwork and painting workshops.

The third center of Maison Chance was inaugurated in January 2011. Village Chance or the Lucky Village is the first apartment complex in Vietnam to be adapted to people with disabilities. The cost of rent is low compared to the market value.

Unlike many other buildings, this one was specifically designed to allow easy wheelchair access, even during a heavy rain. The Lucky Village is also home to a swimming pool used for hydrotherapy, a primary school, a restaurant run by Maison Chance beneficiaries and a day care center.

The three centers, situated within 1km of each other, are recognizable by their blue color, a symbol of hope.

At the end of our meeting, Tim told us she has sponsored nearly 70 children who are grandchildren of 200 people with disabilities receiving help from her. With her great support for people with disabilities in Vietnam, Aline Rebeaud has been granted Vietnamese citizenship and given the name Hoang Nu Ngoc Tim.

Products made by people with disabilities at Maison Chance:

Dak Nong province has allocated a 27,000m2 area near the Dray Sap-Gia Long waterfall cultural ecotourism complex for Tim to build another Lucky Village. The project is expected to open later this year and will welcome 250 orphans and people with disabilities from the region.

Story: Thong Hai -  Photos: Thong Hai and Files