There is a house by the sea 120km from Hanoi called Thien Giao. In this house the occupant’s heartbeat beats in unison for one hope, the hope that they will all be able to love and be loved. I visited this house one year ago, and it did not leave me any lasting impressions or feelings.
I was there again recently, something have changed in the house, something has sparked and moved me to look into, to delve deeper into the bonds of the occupants in this house and the bonds between me and them.
The occupants are all victims of Agent Orange that have been abandon and given up hope by their family. Founded by Mrs Huong this home cares for 10 Agent Orange victims. It is more than a care centre; it is a home where everyone is a family member, caring and loving each other. The victims are taught basic farming, cleaning, and caring for younger ones and basic labour skills. These gave the victims more interaction between each other and also help them to be independent. All these reduce their tendency of becoming aggressive and also reduce the frequency of spasms.
Apart from that, I am also surprised and touched by the idea of two occupants Hanh and Them getting married and forming a new family. Hanh and Them have through their time spent together in the home, shows signs of emotional bondage between each other.
Miracles do happen as thru time and love. They have display significant improvements physically and emotionally in their daily life. Less aggression, less personal attention needed, more independent, more loving, more positive.
I have seen many documentaries about victims of Agent Orange and are often touched by their melancholy, despair and pain. In this series of photos, I wanted to capture the positive interactions and the happiness of the victims. There small and elusive moments that are rarely seen.
***Agent Orange is the common name used for one of the herbicides by US military as part of the herbicidal warfare program during the Vietnam War from 1961-1971. It is later discovered that Agent Orange contains an extremely toxic dioxin compound. The idea of the US Military is to destroy forest, rural land and food crops thus depriving the guerillas of cover, support and food supply. Vietnam estimates 400,000 people were killed or maimed, and 500,000 children born with severe birth defects. [Official website]
At the corner inside the warehouse
Lanh – 36 years old and Tram – 24 years old are two victims of Agent Orange, they are playing and teasing each other on the bed. Thien Giao is the house of love located next to the sea and about 120km from the central city of Vietnam. There are about 10 victims living here and their parents are veterans.
Tram and Hanh, 2 orange victims are taking a bath together
Them was born in 1989, one of four female victims of Agent Orange living in this centre, she is wandering outside the yard.
Phuong suffering polio was born in 1981 from Thanh Hoa province. When she had knew information about this house more than 5 years ago, instantly she wrote a letter asking to live with other victims and in the future Phuong will become a manager for all of activities of this centre. Two remaining persons in this picture are Tuyen – born in 1994 (he is bathing) and Hung – born in 1996. Tuyen is suffering tumors in his bone and Hung has difficulties in pronunciation.
Nhi is the youngest victim in this house – 11 years old, she is playing in an empty room in backyard. This room was a common room to entertain but it was blown off the roof after suffering a storm in 2010 because the house locates next to the sea so it has to bear storms every years. Du (a remaining woman in this picture) was born in 1986 suffering deaf and dumb.
Mrs.Huong – 62 years old is getting haircut for Hanh, she has established this centre for many years ago and she conducts everything from teaching and caring for victims to the management for production of mushroom and livestock. Hanh was born in 1979 is a victim of Agent Orange and he has been living here since 2002.
Them – 22 years old is made up to prepare the wedding with Hanh. Them and Hanh are very happy to build a marriage bond after a period of time of showing abnormal manifestations about emotionally and psychologically.
Hanh – 32 years old is resting before the wedding celebration. Them and Hanh are very happy to build a marriage bond after a period of time of showing abnormal manifestations about emotionally and psychologically.
Members of family and related people are taking care for the last step to Them before she will be a wife
Hanh and Them are showing emotional manifestations before the wedding celebration. Both Hanh and Them are victims of Agent Orange, they suffer lesions of the nervous system and they are rarely aware all of their activities but after a period of time of emotional manifestations, both of them have been displaying significant improvements in daily life.
After the celebration, Hanh and Them are supported a private room, the wedding picture is hanged on the wall in their bedroom.
Hanh often embraces Them during their sleep. Both Hanh and Them are victims of Agent Orange, they suffer lesions of the nervous system and they are rarely aware all of their activities but after a period of time of emotional manifestations, both of them have been displaying significant improvements in daily life.
But after a period of time Hanh and Them have lived together in a private room. Hanh often has not controlled his activities and showed his exciting status excessively, so they have to separate and live with other victims. Hanh always puts the wedding picture on his bed and never for anybody to touch.
Them has returned to live with Nhi and she shows important improvements in her comprehension. She takes care Nhi as her little sister and interests with chores more than in the past.
Tram is helping a volunteer to build a tent outside the yard. Victims living in this centre learn labor and control their basic needs. Labor will help them to reduce negative activities as well as create an interactive environment and each victim can learn positive things from others.
Hanh is helping Tuyen to transfer cement for volunteers building a new kitchen for centre. Victims living in this centre learn labor and control their basic needs. Labor will help them to reduce negative activities as well as create an interactive environment and each victim can learn positive things from others.
After 3 months of separation, Hanh is accepted to return with Them in a new private room and Hanh said that he do not want to split again so he has promised that he will not get more negative activities.