Our 20th Anniversary at the Theater of Saigon

On Friday June 5th 2013, our big family celebrated its 20th anniversary. Could there have been anywhere better to celebrate it than in the beautiful Saigon Opera House built by the French in 1900? With every last detail thought of, we all made the trip to enjoy this beautiful evening.

All dressed in white tee-shirts specially designed for the 20th anniversary of Maison Chance, we were ready for the evening that we had spent so long preparing for. The rehearsals had taken place the day before, only just escaping the rain. The choreography was mastered and everyone had memorised their part.

On the day, the children of Maison Chance welcomed our guests by applauding. We had built three ramps for the occasion to allow wheelchair-access to the venue. Bags and accessories of the sewing and bamboo workshops were placed in the entrance to display our work. We had also set up a silent auction for all the paintings placed in the entrance. Most of our artists remained close to their painting. They watched, half smiling, welcoming the success of their work, as guests slipped their bidding papers in the ballot boxes. A buffet was prepared by the restaurant and the bakery of Village Chance. Crostini with shrimp, salmon sushi, cucumber canapes with fish, meat puffs … all accompanied by a glass of wine. The wait-staff were none other than the teens of Maison Chance. The evening began with a press conference at 5 pm. Tim, as well as some of the beneficiaries responded to the reporter’s questions.

After enjoying the buffet, we all entered the auditorium to watch the show. After a quick speech of Tim and Mr Ky, a video recounting the 20 years of Maison Chance’s activities was shown. It depicted the history of Maison Chance, from the meeting between Tim and Thanh, to the construction of the three centers which now house about a hundred people and provide children from disadvantaged families of the area with the opportunity to go to school.

To symbolize these 20 years since it all began, 20 families, composed of former beneficiaries of Maison Chance, their spouses and their children, were introduced to the audience one by one. After a short video introducing them, they appeared on stage under a spotlight. Whether orphaned or disabled, all had overcome the loneliness and the challenges in their lives to form their own family.

A performance showcasing our electric wheelchairs followed. Ten quadriplegic people and one with only one movable shoulder performed. Under the stage lights and to the music “Down the road”, they performed the lively choreography flawlessly. The smiles on their faces! After this, two pupils of the school performed a comedy act by mime. It only took a few seconds to convince the audience of the talent of these two apprentice clowns. All the children of the school then joined hands and joined them on stage to form a beautiful line.

Tim then presented her new project: the opening of a center modeled on Maison Chance in Dak Nong Province in the Vietnamese highlands. This center will welcome orphans and physically disabled people as well as elderly people and people with mental disabilities. A slideshow of photos from were projected on stage allowing the audience to see the location chosen by Tim.

After that, the musicians sang a song for the 20th anniversary of Maison Chance, specially composed by one of the beneficiaries in a wheelchair. Unexpectedly, the song, usually so pretty, was out of tune. The explanation soon became clear: The children had been amusing themselves by playing with the guitar strings behind the scenes and had upset the tuning. A few adjustments later, our musicians resumed their song, this time in tune.

The evening was closed with an auction. Three paintings had been chosen to be sold on stage. Sy, Duong and Vuong took turns to explain the meaning of their work. Vuong, very touched, was the last one to speak. After a few minutes, he finally had to leave the stage. Panicked, he was struggling to breathe. Vuong’s health is getting worse. His pain came forward in a violent way that evening and an operation in France is essential to save the young 21 year old man’s life. Touched by his critical health, one of the guests offered to pay Vuong’s airfare to France. Another gave 25 million VND as a contribution towards his medical expenses. These acts of generosity will allow our young painter to benefit from the operation he needs.

The evening ended, gathering all the members of Maison Chance family on stage, 350 people in total, the big ones, the small ones, the people using wheelchairs and the able-bodied. After the doors of the opera house closed, about 20 people, mainly volunteers who took part in the organization of the event, stayed to continue the celebrations on the steps of the theater. Two buses were rented to transport all the beneficiaries, and Maison Chance’s own bus made several trips until 3 am to bring back all the people and equipment. Partygoers went home with the last one!

The next day we were all tired but happy. Happy to have celebrated our 20 years in this splendid setting, happy to have shown our savoir-faire, and happy to look to the future with a smile.

Author: Armelle de Rocquigny
Translator: Anne Laure

August 2013