A Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper-backed fundraising campaign for children with cancer has so far received thousands of prayers for the 'little warriors' nationwide.
For the past four years, the Toi Dong Hanh, or ‘I accompany,' campaign has unrelentingly raised funds from sunflower drawings posted on social media for Vietnamese children who have been diagnosed with cancer.
The campaign is part of the Sunflower Festival, an annual celebration held by Tuoi Tre to commemorate the life of Le Thanh Thuy, a high school girl who bravely battled bone cancer until she passed away on November 2, 2007.
This year’s Toi Dong Hanh campaign encourages people to post pictures of drawings or paper sunflowers accompanied by messages of love and support for pediatric cancer patients to Facebook, include the hashtags #ngayhoihoahuongduong2018 and #uocnguyenhong2018, and tag three friends. VND30,000 (US$1.3) will be donated to needy pediatric cancer patients for each post.
As of Tuesday, more than 3,500 sunflower drawings had been posted.
Words of hope
“Coming into this life is a blessing in itself. You are never alone on the battlefield. We and your parents will always be there for you in times of need. Soldier on with vigor. Show ‘em you are as resilient as a sunflower!” Hien, a medical student from north-central Vietnam, wrote next to her sunflower.
“You little warriors have taught me how to fight without a moment’s rest. I am so grateful for your existence in this life and your ceaseless smile amidst your suffering,” read a note posted by Nguyen Thi Thao Nhu.
Scrolling through the #ngayhoihoahuongduong2018- and #uocnguyenhong2018-hashtagged submissions, it is clear that the Toi Dang Hanh has spread to every nook and cranny of the country, with thousands of Internet users, ranging from doodlers to reputable artists, joining hands to help those in need.
What binds the messages together is the love each other has put into their heartfelt words.
Each note encourages the ‘little warriors’ to continue their battle and focus on the beauty and light of life, just like a sunflower.
“Happiness and optimism shall conquer all," “Be strong, little warriors, trek on with a bright smile - just like a sunflower," “Miracles will come before long," and “May you all remain positive as ever" are just a fraction of the encouraging words wished upon the children.
Stand firm for a brighter future
In Ho Chi Minh City, where the 11th Sunflower Festival will take place this Sunday, the campaign is pushing along in full force.
School campuses throughout the city have been filled with students and undergraduates alike who can be seen filling notebook pages with beautiful sunflower drawings since the campaign first began.
For primary school student Quoc Nguyen, drawing a sunflower to support his cancer-stricken peers has been an annual tradition for the past three years.
Scribbling next to each flower, he writes, “Hope you guys get well soon,” a simple yet earnest prayer for those who need it most.
Tran Diem My chose lyrics from the motivational song “Em Uoc Mong Sao” (I Wish) to accompany her drawing. The song, the unofficial theme song of the Sunflower Festival, used to be performed by Hoang Ngan, a nine-year-old cancer patient, before she passed away in 2010.
In a message to the youngest group of these little warriors, babies so young they cannot even stand, Tran Thao Vy wrote the following message beside her sunflower: “I pray you are brave enough to withstand the heavy doses of medication; that you are strong enough to surpass the malady, and positive enough to claim back your life.”
Phan Thanh also included the encouraging message: “Little warriors, be like a firm, stout, unswayed sunflower!”
Prose, idioms, and reflections might have been more frequent in their messages uploaded by adults, but regardless of the specific words, the message threading through every submission was the same: “Life diminishes only when you cease all hope. Do not falter. Rise instead. The deep mire might be below your feet, but the shining sun is just a blink.”