Thursday, December 25, 2008

Dartmouth Medical Magazine

Last August, Thien Nhan travelled to Dartmouth, New Hampshire in the United States, where he underwent urethral surgery. An interesting article about his case has just been published in Dartmouth's medical magazine --online at:

Thanks to the writer, Matthew Wiencke, for his thoughtful and well-informed story, to Greig Craft and Son Michael Pham, the trip's tireless organizers, and to all of the doctors and nurses who helped Thien Nhan at Dartmouth University Hospital.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Ups & Downs

Last Sunday, one day after getting four stitches in his lip, Thien Nhan joined his preschool classmates at a Christmas carol performance held in Hanoi's historic Opera House. Due to his accident, he'd missed the dress rehearsal and was overwhelmed - and scared - by the giant stage and bright lights. "The kids were on a stage that moved up and down," explains mom Mai Anh. "Thien Nhan got really scared and cried through most of the song." Luckily, his big brother, Little Minh, 3, was at the concert too, and helped to reassure Thien Nhan. "Nhan wasn't the only kid who was crying," says Mai Anh. "After his accident and the anaesthetic he wasn't his usual happy self. He had a tough weekend." Luckily he's fine now and the family's looking forward to a happy and relaxing Christmas!

Musical Mishap

Poor Thien Nhan had a musical mishap! While standing on the piano bench and pressing on the keys with his leg-stump to make "music", the tot lost his balance and fell off, landing face first. "There was blood all over his chin and shirt," reports mom Mai Anh. "Nghinh and I totally panicked. We were so scared. We all rushed to the emergency room at Viet Duc Hospital."

At the hospital, doctors recognized Thien Nhan from local media reports. Aware that the boy has already been through a lot of trauma and fearful of damaging his adorable looks, they called two plastic surgeons from the Facial-Dental Hospital. These specialists decided to put Thien Nhan under general anaesthetic and used a special type of stitches that reduce scarring. Four stitches were required to repair his lower lip. "The doctors did an amazing job. Thank goodness he is fine and looks great," says Mai Anh. [Photo shows Thien Nhan the day after his accident.]

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas Decorations

Thien Nhan is busily preparing for this Sunday's Christmas concert, when he'll join his preschool classmates in singing carols at Hanoi's Opera House.

In preparation for the event, Thien Nhan's frame walker -- which he obtained in Chicago last August -- will be decorated with festive tinsel garlands and streamers. We'll post photos when available...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Something to Sing About

Today at preschool, Thien Nhan and his classmates spent time practicing singing "We Wish You a Merry Christmas". The toddlers will perform the song at a school Christmas party at Hanoi's historic Opera House. "It's amazing that when we got him nine months ago he only spoke a few words and now he can sing this song," says his mom, Mai Anh. "Time goes so quickly!"

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


After a few weeks being plagued by colds and flus, Thien Nhan and his brothers, Big Minh and Little Minh, are all healthy again. Check out the cute video link of the boys playing with modelling clay at the Hanoi Children's Palace.

"Winter isn't an easy time for Thien Nhan because cold weather makes his leg stump ache," admits mom, Mai Anh. But the tot is looking forward to spending his first Christmas and Tet with his adoptive family in Hanoi.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Christmas Cheer

Thanks to Hanna's Mum and all of the Saigon Help Thien Nhan volunteers who showed up to help sell Bubbafish toys at last Saturday's HCM City British International Christmas Craft Fair! We sold VND13 million worth of soft, handmade toys, including 50 pieces that went to Smart Kids International School.

In the run-up to Christmas, Bubbafish - a small toy company operated by Thien Nhan's mom, Tran Mai Anh, and good friend Elke Ray - has participated in six craft fairs in Hanoi and HCM City, giving 10 percent of sales towards Thien Nhan's rehab. Sales at these events have contributed VND6 million to Thien Nhan, and raised a lot of interest in his case. Thanks to everyone who helped out!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Thanks Saigon Rugby!

A big thanks to the Saigon Rugby Club for their donation of US$500 towards Thien Nhan's rehabilitation. Let's hope that in the future Thien Nhan will be able to get out on the field and run with his prosthetic leg!

This money was raised during the club's Jon Ellwood Memorial Trophy - an annual tournament held in memory of Jon Ellwood, a club member killed in the 2002 Bali bombings. This year's charitable tournament, held in mid-November, was a great success, drawing a dozen teams made up of expat and local players.

Anyone in Saigon eager to play rugby should check out
Touch rugby takes place every Saturday from 4 to 6p.m. at RMIT University sports ground, 702 Nguyen Van Linh Boulevard, Tan Phong Ward. District 7.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Cam On Singapore!

Thien Nhan's most devoted supporter, Singaporean comic CC Lee, keeps coming through for the tot. In the last month alone, CC Lee -- creator of the Singapore Straits Times comic strip "Chew On It!" -- has raised US$5,641 from his readers and colleagues in Singapore, and added another $369 of his own money, for donations totalling US$6,010 for Thien Nhan! Check out CC Lee's artwork at

Largely thanks to Singaporeans' generosity, we are nearing the US$70,000 mark for donations -- almost half way to our goal. Cam on CC Lee and Singapore!

Baseball Star

Thanks to Quang Huy for sending words of encouragement to Thien Nhan and his family, along with this truly inspiring video of a little American boy with one leg playing baseball. The clip is brief and adorable -- really worth checking out:

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Hot Sellers

This past Saturday, the Bubbafish/Help Thien Nhan booth at Saigon's Mekong Merchant Craft Fair sold over 120 soft toys, raising VND1.5 million for Thien Nhan and giving away hundreds of flyers about his case.

Many thanks to our wonderful Protec volunteers Ms. Diem and Mr. Nam for helping to staff the stall, and to Marga, Hilda and Mekong Merchant for organizing such a busy fair and for providing us with free booth space!

Despite being an extremely hot day -- especially for Elke, whose coming baby is due early January -- the fair was a great family event. Bubbafish's soft toys were a hit, and we raised a lot of publicity for Thien Nhan!

[photo left to right: Ms. Diem & Mr. Nam of Protec & Elke & Co Mai of Bubbafish]

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Bad Week for Thien Nhan

Thien Nhan's had a rough time of it lately. A bad case of flu landed him in hospital twice this past week, as excessive coughing led to severe vomitting. After several days of not eating, he lost a lot of weight. "He looks very sad and thin," reports mom, Mai Anh. "He looks like a dried sweet potato."

As if Thien Nhan hadn't seen enough doctors, on Tuesday and Wednesday he had to go in to the Hanoi French Hospital prosthetic clinic to be fitted for a new leg. A short video clip (link below) reveals just how upset he was, screaming and begging his dad to make the doctors stop applying plaster to his stump in order to create a mold. But of course it's for his own good -- all being well, a month from now he'll receive a new prosthetic. Since he's outgrown his current limb he also had to stop by VietCot to get it extended, which meant more time in a hospital environment -- and more tears!

Medical Breakthrough

Thanks to Philip Chu, of Hong Kong, who sent us an article about the world's first-ever whole organ transplant grown from the patient's own stem cells. This innovative procedure offers real hope for Thien Nhan's genital reconstruction and leg in the future.

Professor Martin Birchall, one of the surgeons who implanted a new windpipe in a 30-year-old Spanish woman, said: "This is just the beginning... In 20 years' time the commonest surgical operations will be regenerative procedures to replace organs and tissues damaged by disease with autologous [self-grown] tissues and organs from the laboratory. We are on the verge of a new age in surgical care."Professor Birchall said the technique could initially be extended to growing other hollow organs such as the bowel, bladder and reproductive tract but could later be extended to solid organs.

The new technique of customising organs so that they are indistinguishable from the body's own tissues not only overcomes the problem of rejection but also greatly extends the range of organs and tissues that can be transplanted. Transplant of many body parts, such as limbs, has been restricted by concerns over immunosuppression.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Home, But Not Alone

Hanoi has been in the news a lot recently due to stormy weather and flooding, with parts of the city under several feet of water. All that rain and stagnant water have led to a rise in illnesses, including colds and flus. Thien Nhan, who is badly affected by weather fluctuations, has come down with yet another cold. "He's tough and rarely gets severely ill," reports mom, Mai Anh. "But he had a fever last night and feels miserable." While big brother Little Minh is fine, Mai Anh kept him home from preschool too -- mostly to appease Thien Nhan. "When Nhan saw Minh getting ready to leave he started screaming," says Mai Anh. "He was desperate for Minh to stay home with him."

In other news, Sparrowgirls, a US website that covers adoption stories, has added an account of Thien Nhan's adoption to their site. Check out the site's cute collection of Thien Nhan photos:

Monday, November 10, 2008

Christmas Is Coming...

Bubbafish soft toys were a big hit at last Saturday's Saigon South International School Christmas Craft Fair, with more than 150 of the colorful critters finding new homes. As well as raising VND2 million for Thien Nhan and other needy Vietnamese kids, we also gave away more than 100 flyers about Thien Nhan's cause. Many SSIS' students were fascinated by the tot's story, and eager to help by handing out flyers and buying our handmade toys. Many thanks to SSIS for providing us with a free booth at their fantastic Christmas Fair!

As well as employing deaf and disadvantaged female workers in Hanoi, Bubbafish donates a percentage of sales to Thien Nhan and other needy kids in association with the charity Kids Without Borders. If you're looking for cute Christmas gifts that support a good cause, let Elke know:

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Special Guests

Last week, Son Michael Pham of Seattle-based Kids Without Borders (KWB) -- the organization that helped to arrange Thien Nhan's urethral surgery in the USA -- stopped by Thien Nhan's house for a visit. This was the first time that Son Michael had met Thien Nhan's eldest brother, Big Minh, 8, and grandmother.

With Son Michael were four youngsters from the Hoa Phuong Orphanage who are currently studying and working in Hanoi under the support of KWB's "Teach Me To Fish" program. During this trip to Vietnam, Son Michael visited a variety of orphanages and projects aided by KWB in HCM City, Hanoi and Hai Phong. For more information about the great work done by KWB, which is 100% volunteer-run, check out:

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Something to Sing About!

A TV crew from the Bai Hat Vietnam song-writing contest visited Thien Nhan's family yesterday, to present the tot with a special gift. Composer Jazzy Da Lam's song about Thien Nhan, titled "Incredible Things", took first place in the nationwide contest, and Ms. Da Lam donated her VND5 million prize to Thien Nhan.

An additional VND1 million prize for musical arrangement also went to Thien Nhan. Thank you Ms. Da Lam and everyone who voted for Thien Nhan's special song in the Bai Hat Vietnam contest!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Saigon Reunion

Following an eventful Friday morning marching to promote traffic safety in Saigon, Thien Nhan, his parents and big brother Little Minh enjoyed a festive dinner with some of Thien Nhan's loyal supporters in HCM City. Some 30 people attended this gathering.

On Saturday, Thien Nhan's mom Mai Anh met with Greig Craft and Na Huong of the Asia Injury Prevention Foundation, Son Michael Pham of Kids Without Borders and Elke Ray of Bubbafish toys to map out fundraising activities for Thien Nhan over the coming months.

In preparation for Christmas, Elke and Mai Anh will be selling Bubbafish toys at various shops and markets in Vietnam, while Son Michael Pham is working on offering these cute toys in the USA. As well as employing deaf and disadvantaged female workers, Bubbafish uses a percentage of sales to fund Thien Nhan's medical care and to support other child-related projects in Vietnam. If anyone has leads to toy distributors/retail outlets overseas, Team Thien Nhan would love to hear from you! A small selection of bubbafish toys may be seen at

(The photo shows Greig Craft holding Thien Nhan, who slept through lunch.)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Thien Nhan Supports Traffic Safety

Early this morning, Thien Nhan joined actress Michelle Yeoh and hundreds of other participants at a rally outside the Presidential Palace in Ho Chi Minh City to raise awareness about traffic safety.

The actress and former Bond girl is Road Safety Ambassador for the Asia Injury Prevention Foundation (AIPF), which co-organized the march together with the Vietnam National Traffic Safety Committee. One of AIPF’s key missions in Vietnam is to encourage the wearing of motorbike helmets, as motorbikes form the main mode of transport here.

Thien Nhan and his family flew down from Hanoi last night to attend the Saigon rally. They were keen to show their support for AIPF, which is headed by Greig Craft—the American man who organized Thien Nhan’s surgery in the United States last August. At the rally, the family was also reunited with Son Michael Pham of Seattle-based Kids Without Borders, who helped them no end during their USA trip.
"We brought Thien Nhan's walker so that he could join the march for a bit," reports mom, Mai Anh. "He hadn't slept very much so was a bit grumpy. But later he cheered up."

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sick at Home

"Incredible Things", a song that composer Jazzy Da Lam wrote about Thien Nhan, was awarded first prize in the Bai Hat Vietnam song-writing contest. Sadly, Thien Nhan could not attend the awards ceremony in Ho Chi Minh City on Sunday October 26th, as he was down with the flu. A sore throat and a high fever stopped the tot from flying. "We'd already bought the tickets but had to cancel the trip at the last minute," reports his disappointed mom, Mai Anh.

Thien Nhan's fever is down today but he is still at home recuperating. "The weather in Hanoi changed and it was very rainy this weekend," says Mai Anh. "Whenever there is a change in weather Thien Nhan's leg aches so he does not sleep well. And many kids have flu right now and he caught it too."

This week, representatives of the Bai Hat Vietnam song contest will visit Thien Nhan along with a TV crew. "It is a beautiful song," says Mai Anh. "We are very happy that it won and thank all of Thien Nhan's supporters."

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Visiting the Countryside

Yesterday, Thien Nhan and his family drove four hours out of Hanoi to visit his adoptive dad Nghinh's ancestral home in honor of Nghinh's paternal grandfather's death anniversary. It was Thien Nhan's first trip to his paternal village, where dozens of relatives were waiting to meet him. "He was on his best behaviour and charmed all the old ladies, following them around and chattering," says Mai Anh. "They all wanted to feed him and he ate so much chao (rice porridge)." Today, the family prayed before their ancestral altar and visited Grandpa's grave. "Thien Nhan knew how to pray," reports Mai Anh. "He is really enjoying this trip to the countryside." [Photo shows Thien Nhan with his paternal grandmother.]

Monday, October 20, 2008

Thien Nhan's Special Song

The song "Incredible Things", written by composer Jazzy Da Lam [photo at right] to honor Thien Nhan's miraculous survival, was recently entered in the Bai Hat Vietnam song competition:

In just three days, "Incredible Things" received an amazing 14, 893 votes, way ahead of the second-place song at 1,810 votes. To learn more about this talented young composer, go to
What a special gift for Thien Nhan, who loves music!

Friday, October 17, 2008

A Family Outing

Since Little Minh, 3, was feeling better, Mai Anh and Nghinh took all three kids to the amusement park outside Hanoi Children's Palace on Saturday morning. While Big Minh, 8, preferred the roller skating rink, Thien Nhan, 2, loved the merry-go-round. Last time Nghinh went on a fairground ride he got sick, so Mai Anh had to accompany Thien Nhan on all of the rides. "After five rounds on the merry-go round I felt drunk," says Mai Anh. "Thien Nhan wanted to keep going. He loves all those crazy rides so much. He is very strong!"

The photo shows Little Minh (right) and Thien Nhan (in dad's arms) wearing their Protec motorbike helmets.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Thien Nhan, 2, who is teething, was wrestling with his big brother, Little Minh, 3, yesterday and bit him, causing a bruised wrist and badly scraped finger. It was the culmination of a bad week for Little Minh who, as well as having a bad cold, recently received five stitches in his forehead and is still sporting a bandage. A scrape on his neck adds to his sorry appearance. "He looks like an old dishcloth," joked mom, Mai Anh.

After Thien Nhan bit his brother, their dad, Nghinh, locked himself and Nhan in another room until Thien Nhan apologized. Thien Nhan yelled so loudly to be released that Little Minh, his finger still bleeding, felt badly for him and said: "Please let him come out now! I forgive him!"

"Little Minh is teething and just felt like biting something," said Mai Anh. "Unfortunately he chose Little Minh's hand." Here's a photo of the duo on a better day!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Hard Work

Thien Nhan was healthy enough to go back to preschool today. Following his afternoon nap, he spent an hour-long session with our wonderful volunteer physiotherapist Ulrika, who wrote the following about today's lesson:

"Today's practice went very well. TN was standing or walking with his walker for about 40 minutes in a row. For training balance in standing we did some LEGO while using the walker close to a table. We also played some football for more difficult balance training. TN was using his walker back to front, so that the open end was facing the ball. He was holding on to it, of course, but while trying to kick with his left leg he automaticly has to lean over towards the right which gives some good practice."

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Under the Weather

Both Thien Nhan, 2, and his brother Little Minh, 3, are home from school sick today, with mild fevers and sniffles. Usually, Thien Nhan has physio sessions with Swedish physiotherapist Ulrike Urquart on Mondays and Thursdays, but today's lesson had to be cancelled. The tot was already feeling poorly during his last two physio lessons, and gave poor Ulrike--who volunteers her services-- a hard time.

"I wasn't as popular as the first time," said Ulrike. "Well, that's the challenge working with little kids. You can have a great plan for the meeting and then have to rethink. But that's what I love about my work."

"He was cranky and yelled at Ulrike a lot," said Thien Nhan's mom, Mai Anh. "He did not want to cooperate. But Ulrike is very good with him. We are so lucky to find her."

A Beautiful Visit

Miss Vietnam Mai Phuong Thuy stopped by Thien Nhan's house in Hanoi for a surprise visit yesterday. Miss Phuong Thuy had first met Thien Nhan on August 8th, a few days before the toddler left Vietnam to have surgery in the US. On that occasion the beauty queen had shared her birthday cake with Thien Nhan, cheering him up after a round of medical tests.

This time, the 20-year-old Miss chatted and played with Thien Nhan and his big brother, Little Minh, 3, who recently got five stitches in his forehead after crashing into a table. Miss Phuong Thuy reported being pleased to find Thien Nhan healthy, happy and getting bigger.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Happy Birthday Big Bro!

Thien Nhan's eldest brother, Big Minh, celebrated his ninth birthday this week and mom Mai Anh bought a big chocolate cake for the occasion. After Minh blew out the candles, Little Minh, 3, and Thien Nhan, 2, each got a turn.

The three brothers then went to check out nearby toy shops so that Big Minh could select a toy for himself.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Another Step Forward

Swedish physiotherapist Ulrike Urquhart, who lives in Hanoi, has very kindly volunteered to work with Thien Nhan two days a week to help the tot to improve his strength and balance. Within moments of meeting, Ulrike and Thien Nhan were happily playing together, with language proving no obstacle. "They were very happy and natural together," says Thien Nhan's mom, Mai Anh. "It's wonderful. Thien Nhan can learn to walk and also learn some English too."

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

School Picnic

Check out the adorable short video of Thien Nhan's first day of preschool that his mom, Mai Anh, posted on Youtube -- . Since the clip was posted yesterday, more than 2,200 people have already watched Thien Nhan and his litte classmates engage in a make-believe picnic. At the start of the video Thien Nhan correctly identifies a plastic hot dog. "He ate lots of sausages when he was in the US," explains Mai Anh. "He loves them."

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

First Day of School

Today was Thien Nhan's first day of school, courtesy of international Hanoi preschool Sunrise Kids, which has given the tot free tuition! Journalists from VN Express were on hand to film Thien Nhan's trip to school, which was made along with dad Nghinh and big brother, Little Minh, 3, who helped Thien Nhan to get ready and carried his satchel (pictured). The two brothers will study in the same class.

At school, Thien Nhan was thrilled to discover two choices of snacks--toast or rice porridge. While he could not join in the more active morning exercises he participated from the sidelines, copying the other kids and raising his arms and leg to the music. "I think he'll really enjoy school," said his mom Mai Anh. "He is very sociable and learns quickly."

Monday, September 22, 2008

Thank You Saigon Yoga Mala!

Sunday's 2008 Saigon Yoga Mala was a terrific success with some 50 people of all nationalities coming together at Dancenter to raise US$1,200 for Thien Nhan! Thanks to Nicky Poole of Breathing Room Yoga ( for organizing this beautifully-run event; to Dancenter ( for providing such a fantastic, spacious venue; to Patricia and Michelle for teaching; to La Reunion des Marmites for supplying delicious restorative cakes; and to Pierre for his expert filming. "There was such great, positive energy at this event," said Elke, who collected the donations on Thien Nhan's behalf. "It was so moving to have all of those people eager to help this brave little boy."
(Top photo: Yoga teachers Nicky, Patricia & Michelle)

Friday, September 19, 2008

Stretch & Shop!

As well as leaving you fit, energized and relaxed, tomorrow's Saigon Yoga Mala is a fantastic way to support Thien Nhan! Starting at 3pm, Nicky Poole of Breathing Room Yoga and other international volunteer yoga teachers will lead participants through a series of 108 sun salutations. Entry is via donation, with all proceeds going to support Thien Nhan.

To raise further funds for this special child, Elke Ray will be on hand to sell bubbafish toys. Founded and co-owned by Elke and Thien Nhan's adoptive mom Mai Anh, bubbafish produces quirky, handmade soft toys and baby accessories. Since 30% percent of bubbafish sales at the Yoga Mala will go to the Help Thien Nhan Fund, why not buy your Christmas presents early this year? This is your first chance to buy bubbafish's newest characters like Gertie the Goat (above, $10).

Where: Dancenter, 46/2 Nguyen Cuu Van, Binh Thanh District, HCM City
When: Sunday, September 21st, 3pm (but come early for check-in)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Chew Love

Singaporean comic artist CC Lee has done it again, pulling in another US$2,112 (S$3,107) of donations for Thien Nhan from the kind people of Singapore! Lee then chipped in a lucky $88 to bring the sum up to $2,200. So far, this amazing cartoonist--who has yet to meet Thien Nhan--has raised close to US$17,000 for the tot from his fans and colleagues, plus chipped in over US$1,200 of his own cash. Thanks to CC Lee's and Singapore's continued support, Thien Nhan has lots to smile about!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Moon Cake Fun

Last Sunday, kids across Vietnam celebrated the Mid-Autumn Festival, which typically involves lion dances, lantern processions and traditional games and sweets, including moon cakes. On this special night, Thien Nhan and his brothers Big Minh and Little Minh attended a party at the office of their mom, Mai Anh. Along with other traditional entertainments, the kids participated in a moon-cake-eating contest, in which they attempted to eat moon cakes that were strung on a rope. Despite having to balance on one leg throughout the game, guess who emerged the winner? Thien Nhan easily beat the competition, consuming a grand total of THREE mooncakes! "He's starting to look like a moon cake himself," joked mom Mai Anh. "There is nothing he will not eat!"Looking at the tot now, it's hard to believe that just six months ago Thien Nhan was malnourished, anemic and suffering from chronic diahrrea.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Play Time

Thien Nhan doesn't let the loss of his right leg stop him from having fun. The 2-year-old crawls very fast and can climb like a little monkey. To see more photos of Thien Nhan and his parents playing in a New Hampshire park, check out the photos of Barry Bland at the link below:

New Friends

Thien Nhan received overwhelming support from the American-Vietnamese community during his August trip for surgery in the US. "One family drove for a whole day all the way from Canada just to see him," recalls Thien Nhan's mom, Mai Anh. Everywhere they went, people recognized Thien Nhan from local press reports and showered him with attention, food and gifts. In this photo, the tot (left) poses with Dr. Tam Nguyen and his son Chan-Tam in the home of Cathy Lam, the family's gracious host during their stay in Orange County. No stranger to kids in need of help, Dr. Tam makes regular trips to Vietnam where he performs free-of-charge surgery for needy kids suffering from cleft palates and other facial irregularities.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Moving Pictures

Renowned photographer Barry Bland, best known for his wildlife photography, snapped some wonderful images of Thien Nhan when he met the toddler in New Hampshire, USA. To see more of Barry's work, visit his blog at As well as capturing some of what Thien Nhan has been through, these photos reveal the tot's strong character and irrepressible spirt.

Monday, September 8, 2008


Since Thien Nhan got home from the US late last week he's been inseperable from his 3-year-old brother, Little Minh, who'd stayed back in Hanoi. "When they met at the airport they hugged for a long time," says mom Mai Anh. "Now they play together non-stop and really stick together." Mai Anh also reports that Thien Nhan has been sleeping better since his urethral surgery.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Funny Money

A big THANK YOU to Singaporean comic artist CC Lee and to his many generous friends, colleagues and readers! Since hearing about Thien Nhan's plight in the Singapore Straits Times newspaper, CC Lee has collected US$14,803 for the tot from the kind people of Singapore, plus donated more than US$1,100 of his own money. CC Lee's latest collection drive raised S$2,080, or US$1,463, to which Lee then added US$237 to round the figure up to US$1,700. Special thanks to all monthly and repeat donors for their continued love and support for Thien Nhan! To see some more of CC Lee's comics, go to

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Back Home in Hanoi

Following a very successful trip to the US for urethral surgery and prosthetic care, Thien Nhan and his parents arrived back in Hanoi yesterday. After reuniting with Thien Nhan's brothers, Big Minh and Little Minh (Little Minh, 3, shown here with Mai Anh), the family's top priority was to get some traditional Vietnamese home-cooking. After all that rushing around in the US, mom Mai Anh's weight has dropped down to just 35kg! Thien Nhan, Mai Anh and dad Nghinh will spend the next few days recuperating from jetlag and eating all of their favorite dishes. . .

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Yoga Mala

On September 21st, UN International Peace Day, yoga communities around the world traditionally participate in the Yoga Mala charity event ( to raise money for worthy causes. We are thrilled that the Saigon Yoga Mala, hosted by Nicky Poole of Breathing Room Yoga (, has chosen to donate all proceeds towards Thien Nhan's ongoing medical care.

Both experienced yogis and beginners are welcome at this transformational yoga practice, which will take place at 3pm on Sunday, September 21st at Dancenter, 46/2 Nguyen Cuu Van, Binh Thanh District, HCM City. Participants will be guided through 108 sun salutations, with plenty of time for rest, meditation and contemplation. Whether you're new to yoga or a longtime devotee, please come out and support Thien Nhan!

For more info, please email Nicky at

Monday, September 1, 2008

Step by Step

Son Michael Pham of Seattle-based Kids Without Borders, co-sponsors of Thien Nhan's trip to the US, snapped this photo of his wife Judy and Thien Nhan, engaged in conversation at their hosts' home in LA. Judy, speaking in English, was encouraging Thien Nhan to use his new walker, while Thien Nhan, speaking in Vietnamese, was saying that he wanted to do it himself and in his own way. Listening in on their conversation it was clear that Judy, who has taught special education for almost three decades, is an exceptional teacher, while Thien Nhan has the determination to achieve miracles.

On Sunday night Thien Nhan and his family bid farewell to US trip organisers Na Huong and Bac Sy ("Doctor") Greig, as Thien Nhan calls Greig Craft, who has accompanied the tot on so many of his medical appointments in Vietnam and the US. Leaving their family and work in Hanoi, Greig and Na Huong traveled 10,000 miles at their own expense to be with Thien Nhan every step of the way on his US journey. Thien Nhan and his parents are now looking forward to going home and reuniting with Thien Nhan's brothers--Big Minh, 8, and Little Minh, 3.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Best Wishes

Since we first started to publicize Thien Nhan's fight for a better life in mid-March 2008, we have received hundreds of emails from people around the world, offering encouragement and support.

Casey Jones of Malta, NY sent us the following note after having read about Thien Nhan in the New Hampshire Union Leader:

"I was very touched when I heard about this little boy... Please send my blessings to his parents. My wife and I adopted a young boy from Russia that has special medical needs himself. Although it can be difficult, it is also very rewarding to see them grow. It's probably difficult for people to understand, but I still think that I gained more from adopting Mischa than he did. It's also very disturbing to know that these children probably wouldn'thave survived without being adopted. I just pray that people see the story of Thien Nhan and realize that there are so many children around the world waiting for adoption.

He looks like such a happy boy and can get into all the normal"trouble" that a two year old can. Thank you for all the work that you are doing and I look forward to watching Thien's progress. All I can say is that God has some great things in mind for this precisious little boy. I have made a donation and will continue to tell people about Thien Nhan..."

Generous Hearts

Followers and friends of the Cao Dai, a religious group founded in southern Vietnam in the 1930’s that promotes charitable works, have raised US$2,110 for Thien Nhan. LA residents Hien Cao and Khai rallied their friends who live all over the US and in Vietnam to support Thien Nhan. Many thanks to Khai Tang, Tuan Le & Tran, Huynh Nhut-Anh Jaxon, Doan Tran & Van Bui, Hien Cao & Nhi Hang, Bác Khanh Bui, Que Bui & Sister, Tami Phan, Thao Doan & Duyen Nguyen, Ai-Lien Dang, Ha Pham & Giao Huynh, Nghi Le, John Tran and My Bui, Quyen Bui, Tu Anh Huynh & Duy, Quy, Oanh & Cat Tien, Kevin Tran (son of Danh & Ha), Chau Ma & Binh, Trang Duong, Nhi Peter Vo, Xoa Lam, Hue Tang, Vannic Tang, and Kenny Truong, Ha T. Nguyen, and Huong L. Tran.

Special thanks to Hien Cao and Khai, who met Thien Nhan and his parents for a very enjoyable dinner in LA on Friday night. The only time that 2-year-old Thien Nhan stopped chattering was to eat his fried chicken and French fries!

Friday, August 29, 2008

In Little Saigon

Thien Nhan and his parents arrived in California this afternoon, for a few days' stay in Newport Beach. Mom Mai Anh was thrilled to find that their hosts had stocked the house with lots of their favorite foods from Vietnam. She looks forward to making some home-cooked meals. Tomorrow (Friday) will be a day to sleep in, rest and visit with friends in Little Saigon. Son Micheal Pham and his wife Judy, founders of Seattle-based Kids Without Borders and co-sponsors of Thien Nhan's US trip, will arrive in LA late Friday evening. On Saturday morning, the family will meet reporters at Little Saigon Radio & Television, followed by an interview with Saigon Broadcasting Television, which will be aired on cable throughout the US.

In Boston, Thien Nhan and his parents bid a fond (and temporary) farewell to AIPF's Greig Craft and Na Huong (, who did such an amazing job of organizing Thien Nhan's medical care in Dartmouth and Chicago. Paying all of their own travel expenses, the Hanoi-based Greig and Na Huong accompanied Thien Nhan on every step of this remarkable journey, ensuring the trip's success. Here's a brief exerpt from a letter sent to Greig Craft from English teacher Mr. Tran Tuan Viet, who correctly recognized Greig Craft's invaluable contributions to Thien Nhan's recovery:
..."I really admire the generous actions you did for [Thien Nhan's] adoptive mother Tran Mai Anh, whose heart and mind are noble . . . How many unfortunate newborn babies have been abandoned and what are their fates on earth? Fortunately, there are noble minds, generous hearts, charitable organizations and donors who work to try to relieve pain and bring brightness and hope to these children's world. You are one of them. . . I really admire your humane and generous actions. Good health and happiness!"...

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Heading West

Following further consultations, doctors at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago decided that Thien Nhan is too young and small to receive a high-tech prosthetic leg at present. He will spend a few more years practicing with a non-jointed limb and a new frame walker, to aid his balance and muscle-development. By the time he starts school Thien Nhan should receive a prosthetic that will allow him much greater mobility.

With the Chicago appointments wrapped up sooner than anticipated, tomorrow morning the family will fly to L.A., their final destination in the US before heading home. There, they will visit Little Saigon, home to the biggest community of Vietnamese people in the US, and attend some fund-raisers. The family will be staying at the home of Cathy Ha Lam, founder of the nonprofit organization Our One World ( While their journey to the US has exceeded everyone's expectations, Mai Anh, Nghinh and Thien Nhan will be happy to go home and see Thien Nhan's brothers, Big Minh, 8, and Little Minh, 3, who have been very well-behaved, brave little boys during their parents' long absence.

[Photo shows Dr. Theresa Clancy helping Thien Nhan to practice with his new walker]

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Acts of Kindness

On August 26th, Thien Nhan met 10 (yes, 10!) doctors and prosthetic specialists at the Chicago Rehabilitation Center. The excitement and emotion are building in anticipation of Thien Nhan being fitted with a new leg. At this time, Thien Nhan's mom Mai Anh and trip organizer Greig Craft want to thank some of the unsung heroes who have helped to make Thien Nhan's US trip so remarkable.
Thanks to Jennifer Ames, the nurse who put the family up in her home in NH, along with her exceptional 13 year old son Daniel (who TN adopted as a another ‘big brother’) and provided round the clock care. Thanks to ‘Team Thien Nhan’ in Hanover, and to Sue Hammond for her support when the family arrived. And a big cam on to the Vietnamese family who drove 400 miles from Ottawa, Canada, laden with food and gifts, only to spend 1 hour with the family, and to the 8 Vietnamese-Americans who drove up from Massachusetts to meet TN and shower him with more toys and gifts. The outpouring of love from total strangers has been overwhelming. Special thanks to Dr. Joe Rosen, without whose early care and support none of this would have happened.
Arriving at the Logan Hilton airport hotel we were provided gratis rooms, and a special room for our media interviews, complete with snacks and drinks and cookies for TN. Thank you Volande, bellman Nic, Michal Penek, and May Jorem and all the others who welcomed TN – including check in and security staff. And special thanks to General Manager Farooq Rematwala.
We also want to acknowledge Liem Tran (a former ‘boat person') who made all of the arrangements. He and his friend Tom brought cakes and a bag of toys that kept TN well entertained during the interview! And thank you Cody Yiu, editor of the Sampan Newspaper for your thoughtful interview and great questions.
Arriving at United Airlines early Sunday for the flight to Chicago we were confronted with new airline regs regarding overweight bags, ticket change charges, excess bags fees etc. Luckily, the caring supervisor Ms Griffiths realized that this was a ‘special case’ and jumped in to help. Waiving all unanticipated fees (and substantial ones at that) she did everything possible to get us good seats and extra attention. We would never have made the flight without her. Thank you United Airlines and Ms. Griffiths!
There was a momentary scare during the flight when TN complained of stomach pains. Mom and dad rubbed his lower abdomen for several minutes after which TN suddenly let loose with a strong ‘stream’ that showered everyone! With a satisfied smile, he immediately closed his eyes and fell asleep! Thereafter he proudly notified his parents whenever he felt the urge to go. The urethral surgery obviously had its desired result. Well done Dr. Herz and Dr. Deters!
After arriving in Chicago we proceeded to Avis car rental to see what kind of ‘deal’ we could get. Fatefully, the first person we met was manager Patrick who did not even hesitate to set us up with a van large enough to accomodate us and our caravan of baggage (growing by the city due to TN's toys)! He and his staff – including Kim – were great. Patrick thanked us for making his day. Thank you Avis!
We then made a bee-line for Chicago’s Chinatown (having discovered that this is the quickest way to find a Vietnamese restaurant in America)! After an hour-long feast at The Noodle Shop we headed to Worchester House, a Northwestern Memorial Hospital-owned building for patients and their families. At $75 per night, we were expecting a hostel so were flabbergasted to find ourselves next to Lake Shore Drive in the heart of Chicago. Once again, TN's magic infected everyone. Duty manager Karen Smith did all that she could, putting the family in the best room available.
On Monday, Dr. Dudley Childress, one of the world’s preeminent researchers in prosthetics, came to personally welcome TN to Chicago. After hosting us for lunch, he took us to the Northwestern University Prosthetics Research and Rehabilitation Engineering Research Program, where we spent 2 fascinating hours meeting all of the staff in the research center, and visiting the various testing labs. We are hopeful that by the time he starts school, Thien Nhan will be able to play, and run and walk like other kids. Due to his young age, the immediate goal is to find a short-term solution to improve his mobility.
Back to Chinatown in search of Vietnamese food we finally stumbled upon Café Hoang, owned and operated by a former mechanical engineer named Quy and his lovely wife. The pair recognized TN from VN Express. Oh what a meal Chef Quy prepared! After paying the bill, we were shocked when Quy appeared and returned our money, saying, “It’s our honor to help”. And then the couple made an additional donation of $100!

As much as a journey to heal TN, this trip has been a discovery of the basic goodness in people everywhere. Thanks to all for their loving kindness!

[Photos, top: Worchester House, below: United Airlines, Cafe Hoang, Avis]