Hien, 47, and Hong, 43, have dedicated their life savings to establishing a home where they provide free care to underprivileged kidney disease patients and their caretaking relatives from all over Vinh Long Province.

As part of their mission, the couple offers complimentary meals to their guests, many of whom rely on the companionship, support, and solace of living together to find strength as they battle physical pain and financial hardships.

Providing Accessibility

Hien and Hong’s 200-square-meter prefabricated house is conveniently located just one kilometer from Can Tho General Hospital in Can Tho City, granting their guests easy access to the life-saving renal dialysis treatment they depend on.

Renal dialysis is a necessary procedure that involves artificially removing waste and excess water from the blood of individuals with failing kidneys.

In Vietnam, each dialysis session costs between VND150,000 ($6.5) and VND1 million ($43), and must be performed approximately three times a week. Considering that Hien and Hong’s guests come from extremely low-income families, the bills accumulate rapidly.

To make ends meet, Hien works as a crane operator while Hong runs a grocery store from their home.

Every morning, Hong journeys to the local market to purchase food for the patients residing in their home.

With 40 beds in their home, there is a significant amount of shopping to be done. Fortunately, the food traders, who were initially surprised by the large quantities Hong would request, empathize with the couple and do their best to assist.

“Ever since they found out what we’ve been doing, they’ve been lending us a hand,” Hong shared.

In addition to kidney patients, Hien and Hong also welcome homeless individuals into their home, hoping that their acts of kindness contribute to the improvement of their community and the world.

Providing Sanctuary

The concept of constructing a boarding house for kidney patients initially occurred to Hien during a visit to Can Tho General Hospital.

During his visit, Hien was moved by the sight of a kidney patient painfully resting in one of the hospital’s corridors.

Recognizing that many patients in local hospitals struggle to find a peaceful place to sleep, free from the constant need to guard their belongings, Hien and his wife decided to establish a space where they can rest comfortably.

Renal patients share food at a home built by Nguyen Thi Kim Hong and her husband in Binh Minh Town, Vinh Long Province, Vietnam. Photo: Thanh Nhon / Tuoi Tre
Renal patients share food at a home built by Nguyen Thi Kim Hong and her husband in Binh Minh Town, Vinh Long Province, Vietnam. Photo: Thanh Nhon / Tuoi Tre

“We provide them with free accommodation and meals. We also check on them whenever we have a free moment,” Hien shared.

Word of their free boarding house quickly spread throughout the province, attracting an increasing number of kidney patients.

“We’re now like a family. We enjoy conversing and sharing about the events in our lives,” Hien explained.

This sentiment is shared by those who rely on their boarding house.

“Hien and his wife provide us with a proper place to stay, meals, and cover our dialysis expenses,” said Pham Van Vang, an 83-year-old who has been on dialysis for the past 12 years. “Sometimes they even give us money. I’m unsure how I’ll ever repay them for their kindness.”

Vang is one of the 20 renal dialysis patients currently residing in Hien’s home, and the sense of community they have built has been instrumental in their fight for survival.

Nguyen Thi Be, 70, Vang’s wife, is equally grateful for the support provided by Hien and Hong. With dialysis required every two days, in addition to multiple surgeries over the years, the couple had to sell their paddy field in Mang Thit District, Vinh Long Province, to cover hospital expenses.

Be was earning a meager income of VND50,000 ($2.1) per day by washing dishes, but her poor eyesight eventually prevented her from continuing the work. Their children are also financially strained and unable to offer assistance.

“We wouldn’t have made it this far without the support from Hien, his wife, and other kind-hearted individuals,” Be expressed.

Pham Van Hoa shares Be’s gratitude towards the philanthropic couple.

For the past six years, this young man has been undergoing dialysis at Can Tho General Hospital three times a week, with each session lasting between three and a half to four hours.

“I cherish every moment I am still alive,” Hoa remarked.

According to Hoa, the emotional connections he has formed with the other residents and the home provided by Hong and Hien have been his saving grace. One of those connections is with Nguyen Thi Kieu Bay, a 50-year-old woman from Tra On District who moved into the home six months ago.

With no relatives to care for her, Bay had no other option but to seek help from Hien and Hong.

“There are times when I feel completely exhausted, but I refuse to give up. I am incredibly blessed to be here and to be cared for by Hien and Hong, which gives me the motivation to keep going,” Bay shared.

Such gratitude is the only reward Hien and Hong seek for their benevolent actions.

“We don’t pay attention to gossip about us. All we care about is the happiness of the patients,” Hong added, expressing their gratitude for the love and support they receive from their community.

A Man on a Mission

In addition to managing the nursing home, Tran Van Hien actively serves as a member of the rescue squad on the Hau (Back) River.

He has been involved in various situations that require covering transportation and funeral expenses for deceased individuals.

Hien also takes great pride in organizing funerals for renal patients who pass away without any family to perform the burial rites.

“They may not be my own flesh and blood, but my heart aches every time someone takes their last breath without a loved one by their side,” Hien shared. “I will continue providing this service for as long as I can.”

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