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Left by the tree

At Duc Son, they often talk of the time when Minh Tú found a girl in a basket underneath the tree outside the pagoda. The girl was named Thao, and the nuns cared for her. Now it’s she who helps them.

It was during the Vietnamese New Year festivities, which continue for three days. The first day is spent with family, the second with friends. On the third day the country’s teachers are celebrated. The nuns at Duc Son pagoda received lots of gifts from visitors. It was often envelopes with money, but also food and various presents.

Early one morning, Minh Tú heard the sound of a baby crying outside the pagoda. She looked out, but couldn’t see anyone. Then she went outside to take a closer look. The crying seemed to come from the big tree.

There was a little bundle lying in a basket among the tree roots. It moved. When Minh Tú folded back a bit of the cloth, she saw a tiny face and an open mouth. The baby wasn’t very old. Perhaps just one week, thought Minh Tú. There was no letter and no papers in the basket.

Thao arrived at the pagoda as a newborn baby, and it’s been her home ever since.

In the pagoda’s little children’s home there were some older children that the nuns took care of, but they had never had a newborn baby before. The girl was given the name Thao. There was no milk at the pagoda, so at first she had to drink powdered milk and rice purée.

Needed more food

The children at the pagoda followed the nuns every where. If Minh Tú had an errand to run, she took Thao with her. When Thao was five, Minh Tú had to travel to Ho Chi Min City for a course on Buddhism. They took the train. On the way home, Minh Tú became very ill.

“You’ll have to manage by yourselves for a bit,” said Minh Tú.
“No problem. You just rest and we’ll look after you,” said Thao. Then Thao got sick. She had a stomachache and Minh Tú took her to hospital.
“The girl isn’t getting enough food,” said the doctor. “She’ll have to stay here for a while.”

Minh Tú watched over Thao day and night at the hospital. She sat at her bedside for two weeks.

Keen to help out

When Thao started school, it meant leaving Minh Tú for the first time. She took the bus to school and back every day with the other children. The children’s home was bigger now. Lots of children lived there. Minh Tú was receiving more and more gifts from people who came to visit. She was able to get more nutritious food, so the children could grow up big and strong and have enough energy for school.

Thao, in the middle with her school bag, always studied hard.

Thao grew, and as soon as she had some spare time she started accompanying Minh Tú when she went outside the pagoda to help the poor. Thao soon decided that she’d like to work in health care herself. She didn’t just want to be able to help others. She also wanted to care for the nuns, who had given her so much, and the young children at the children’s home.

Thao often went with Minh Tú when she helped the poor outside the pagoda. Now she always gives the children and nuns health checks when she visits the pagoda.

After high school, Thao was accepted into nursing school. She now works at the hospital in Huế, but every weekend she travels to the pagoda. While she’s there, she carries out health checks on both the children and the nuns.

Thao works as a nurse in the city but visits the pagoda every weekend.

Thao and Trung met at the children’s home

When Thao was seven, two new boys arrived at the children’s home at Duc Son. They were the same age as her, twins Trung and Thnong. Throughout their school years they lived alongside one another at the pagoda, playing and studying together. When it was time for university, the twins left the pagoda and Thao trained to be a nurse. Several years later, Trung turned up at the pagoda again. Thao was visiting at the same time, and Trung wanted to ask her out.

Trung found a job at the pagoda. Minh Tú wanted him to start a mushroom growing patch so the children at the children’s home would have more to eat and the nuns something to sell at the market.
Trung and Thao are now married and living together in Hû’.

Top photo: Thao, in the pink dress, was given her name by the nuns.

Text: Erik Halkjaer
Photo: Jesper Klemedsson


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