For Loan, family is not defined by blood. Having been separated from her biological family after fleeing Vietnam, Loan has lived away from them for almost 30 years.
“Leaving Vietnam was already a frightening experience,” she said. “But going somewhere completely new, not knowing anyone and not having any family to support me was terrifying.”
After leaving Vietnam, she lived in a refugee camp for 2 years with her young nephew – the only family she had with her.
“Throughout the whole experience – I just wanted to make sure he was okay,” she said. “On the boat from Vietnam I fell really ill, but I’ll never forget the kind people who helped me care for him and gave him portions of their food. Their kindness touched me.”
Fortunately, her nephew eventually reunited with his birth parents and moved to America, while Loan immigrated to Australia alone.
Years later, it was empathy which led her to say ‘yes’ to caring for a five-year-old Vietnamese boy who needed a home.
“My friend put out a call to our friendship group, but no one volunteered,” she said. “I just thought – if it were my nephew, I’d want him to be safe.”
“I really felt for him – he was so young and had nowhere to go. So I said I’d do it.”
What started as an emergency placement has since become 5 months of continued care – and Loan wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I would keep him indefinitely, if I could,” she said. “I wouldn’t even hesitate. He’s just wonderful.”
Having never had children of her own, she has found great joy in becoming both carer and mentor for the boy.
“When I first met him, he didn’t speak – not in English or Vietnamese,” she recalled. “But now, he can’t stop talking! I think he’s only ever quiet when he’s asleep.”
For Loan, watching the boy emerge from his shell has been the most rewarding aspect.
“Even his teachers noticed a difference. They said he always looked tired back then. Now, they say he’s like a different boy. He’s become quite the energetic little monkey.”
She believes that a child’s success in life begins with a good home.
“I feel like all he needed was some care and guidance,” she said. “I just want him to have the best chance at life he can have.”
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