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History

Nhom Nu Cuoi (The SMILE GROUP) was founded in 2004 by Nguyen Van Hung.

Anh Hung had grown up in the midst of Saigon during the Vietnam War and by the age of 16, had become addicted to heroine. It would take twenty years for him to turn his life around, but in 1992, he began working with street children and soon became a legendary figure throughout the country for his extraordinary work, at first with street children, and then with young people affected by HIV.

 

After having successfully developed a remarkable program for street children called Thao Dan, Anh Hung decided to devote himself to the ravages of AIDS that were proliferating throughout Vietnam. Although the disease only appeared in the late 90ʼs with the arrival of tourism, it spread rapidly throughout the country. General lack of information about AIDS led to severe discrimination and to the inaccessibility of treatment.

 

Anh Hung left Thao Dan in 2004, and started the SMILE Group. At first, he formed a group of teenagers and young adults all HIV+. The peer group met weekly in a public park but Anh Hung worked around the clock constantly looking for new information, access to care, ways of helping people with AIDS. SMILE continued to grow and expand to include children and orphans of AIDS.

 

With help from friends around the world who admired Anh Hungʼs devotion to his work and witnessed the positive effects on the children, SMILE GROUP raised enough money to sponsor over 30 children, paying for school fees, medical care, entertainment and the rent of a house to serve as office, classroom and kitchen.

 

“Our mission” says Van Hung, “is to help people with AIDS to live their lives fully and to live with the respect and care of the community.” It might be said that he helps others to live with dignity… and to die with dignity.

 

Unfortunately, at the peak of his success, Anh Hung was diagnosed with liver cancer and died 3 months later in 2007. For the next year, the group, having lost its charismatic leader, was in a state of turmoil. Over time, many former friends and sponsors of Anh Hung appealed to us, his closest friends and colleagues, to rebuild the SMILE Group and not abandon the children.

 

We have worked relentlessly to rekindle the spirit and dynamic of the SMILE GROUP. With help from individual sponsors, we have been able to continue support, both financial and psychological of the families. But our financial situation is tenuous so we are trying to develop a more stable form of funding.