Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper on Monday afternoon organized a talk to launch the second phase of its ongoing campaign to help reunite Vietnamese adoptees with their birth parents, following the success of the campaign’s first phase in mid-July.
The talk, themed ‘Helping Vietnamese Adoptees Trace Their Roots,’ was held at the headquarters of Tuoi Tre in Ho Chi Minh City in coordination with Kids Without Borders, an organization devoted to facilitating the homeward journeys of Vietnamese-born children adopted by foreign parents.
After the first talk was held in mid-July, a Vietnamese adopted by a French couple 23 years ago had the opportunity to reconnect with her biological family in southern Vietnam.
Amandine Durand, 23, was moved to tears on Monday as she embraced her birth mother and sister in a surprise reunion during the event – the first time they met after DNA results confirmed their blood ties.
“Me oi [Mom]!” she said in Vietnamese in a trembling voice as her 66-year-old mother Do Thi Chiem was assisted to the stage by her elder sister Doan Thi Lua.
|French-Vietnamese adoptee Amandine Durand (L) cries as she watches a documentary about her journey to find her biological family in Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
The three shared a heartwarming hug as Durand wiped off her tears, overwhelmed by emotions and struggling to string words into sentences.
“I’m very happy, as you can see,” she said.
For Chiem, who was so eager to meet her long-lost daughter that she had not eaten anything since the same morning, the moment was special in its own way.
“I love you… I’m so glad to see you,” Chiem told Durand, whom she has always remembered as the ‘little La’ that she was forced to leave behind at the hospital after birth, thinking she would not be able to provide her daughter with a happy life.
|Vietnamese adoptees Hien Munier (second left), Aurelien Malnoury (third left), Amandine Durand (second right) and Adrien Rieu (R) perform a Vietnamese song at an event in Ho Chi Minh City on November 5, 2018. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
Not all guests at Monday’s event have found their happy ending like Durand did. Most participants came to the talk in the hope of making their stories heard by as many as possible and increasing their chances of finding their biological parents.
Hien Munier, a French-Vietnamese adoptee whose story touched the hearts of Tuoi Tre readers in July, has continued the search for her birth mother for the last four months without much result.
“I’m still waiting for an answer about my roots. I know it’s going to be a long process, and I’m prepared for it,” Hien said.
“Think of the process as a seed that you nurture with expectation, one day it will grow into a tree,” she added.
Apart from searching for her Vietnamese family, Hien devotes the rest of her time to volunteering for Kids Without Borders, where she helps translate documents that could be crucial to the search for parents by Vietnamese adoptees worldwide.
|French-Vietnamese adoptee Hien Munier shares her story at an event in Ho Chi Minh City on November 5, 2018. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
Like Hien, Aurelien Malnoury was born in Vietnam and adopted by French parents from a young age.
Malnoury’s homecoming journey began when doctors asked for his family backgrounds to make a diagnosis of a psychiatric condition that he has.
Adopting the Vietnamese name of Doan Van Giang to assist in his search, Malnoury is now a volunteer at the Child Welfare and Protection Center of Go Vap District in Ho Chi Minh City, where he helps look after kids abandoned by their birth parents.
For Adrien Rieu, who has been raised by loving French parents who provided him with a life as good as the one anybody could hope for, the journey to trace his Vietnamese roots is a pleasure rather than a challenge.
Rieu has been learning Vietnamese for the past six months, which helps him not only look for his biological parents but also explore the people and culture of his birth country.
|French-Vietnamese adoptee Adrien Rieu shares his story at an event in Ho Chi Minh City on November 5, 2018. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
Son Michael Pham, president and director of Kids Without Borders, said it was his honor to work with Tuoi Tre in the campaign to help reunite Vietnamese adoptees with their biological parents.
For children like Hien and Giang, who are leading comfortable lives of their own in France, to choose to come back to Vietnam and help the less fortunate is heartwarming, Son said.
Son expressed his hope that Durand’s happy ending will encourage Vietnamese adoptees worldwide to embark on their own journey to trace their roots.
|Son Michael Pham, president and director of Kids Without Borders, speaks at an event in Ho Chi Minh City on November 5, 2018. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
The audience of Monday’s talk was also moved by stories shared by Vietnamese mothers who had spent the larger part of their lives looking for their long-lost children.
Nguyen Thi Dep, who is in her late 60s, said her search had lasted 43 years without any result.
“I don’t know if I can continue searching for much longer. I only hope that my dream will come true before I die,” Dep said.
Choked in tears, Dep said the only memory she has of her daughter is that of a three-year-old baby girl.
“She must be over 40 now. I want to know if she’s married, how she’s living, and to say ‘I love you’ to her the moment we meet,” Dep said.
|Guests and hosts join a talk about helping Vietnamese adoptees trace their roots in Ho Chi Minh City on November 5, 2018. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
Nguyen Thi Nhung, another mother who came to the event hoping to spread word about her story, suspected if she would be able to say anything when she was reunited with her long-lost child.
“If it came true, I would just give her a really tight hug to make up for all those years that we were apart, because I know that she too needs a hug from her birth mother,” Nhung said.
The only foster parent to participate in the talk, French national Claude Coudert has raised a Vietnamese son she adopted more than 20 years ago into an associate professor of math who is now working at a university in France.
“If one day he decides that he wants to start looking for his biological parents, I would do all in my power to assist him in the journey,” she said.