In December 2020, being the first to walk on stage to receive a scholarship for distinguished ethnic minority students in Dak Lak, H’On Mlo easily stood out with her uniqueness. Little did it take Rad, VCF’s CEO, and H’Hen Nie, Miss Universe Vietnam 2017, to notice her unusual limb when they handed the little Ede girl the scholarship certificate.

H’On Mlo was born with clubfoot – a common congenital birth defect that causes one or both feet to turn inward and upward. For the last 13 years, H’On has learned how to walk on the side of her left foot and to make friends with the pain every step causes her in her foot, ankle, and leg. She also got acquainted with being humiliated by other children because of her disability. Her poor family believed her deformity could not be fixed. Even if they could fix it, they would be unable to afford the cost of the treatment for H’On’s clubfoot. Her dad, the breadwinner of a family of six, doesn’t have a job and the[TT1]  income is unstable.

After Rad and H’Hen left the event, their hearts were heavy with the image of a bright girl having difficulty walking for the rest of her life, hence many of her dreams not being fulfilled. Much discussion was had, and our team made the decision to embark on a journey to “help H’On Mlo walk proudly with her peers”.

We brought the little girl from Dak Lak to HCMC for her first-time ever thorough checkup[TT2]  in early 2021. The doctor said H’On Mlo would end up having a lifetime disability if she didn’t get treatment soon enough. The estimated cost for her treatment (casting, orthopedic surgery, post-surgery care, physical therapy, and follow-up costs) came to 150,000,000 VND (equivalent to $6,500) – an unimaginable number compared to her family’s financial condition.

Luckily, miracles do come to those who yearn for them. Through our fundraising call on VCF’s social media and email newsletter, after only 3 weeks of solicitation, we raised $8,185 to treat the deformity of H’On Mlo. The campaign quickly surpassed the original goal, and the amount of love, encouragement and support we received exceeded all of our expectations. With the invaluable support of Miss Universe Vietnam 2017, H’Hen Nie – who is also Ede, and many kind and generous hearts around the world, the amount raised was sufficient to cover H’On’s treatment fees – including multiple castings, orthopedic surgery, post-surgery care, physical therapy, and follow-up costs. Any funds remaining after those devoted to the medical procedures will be used to enhance her educational opportunities.

Throughout the year, H’On Mlo was having her clubfoot cast and re-cast a few times and had to wait more than 6 months for her surgery, due to the historic Covid-19 outbreak in Ho Chi Minh City. Finally, in December 2021, a year after we first met, H’On had her clubfoot successfully operated on at the Ho Chi Minh City Hospital for Traumatology and Orthopaedics. Despite the post-surgery pain, H’On remained strong and positive about her recovery and future. She came home with a bandaged foot and newfound joy that her body was finally healing.

In January 2022, VCF visited H’On Mlo and her family in Dak Lak, this time with so much happiness and hope radiating from the joy of the little girl’s family. In February 2022, H’On came back to HCMC twice to have her leg brace made and fit, which now helps her to walk normally without a cane. As a result, H’On Mlo can walk properly and proudly with her foot in the correct position, with the brace’s support, and will continue to have checkups and physiotherapy sessions with doctors. 

In July 2022, H’On came back to HCMC again for her check-up. She visited the VCF office to talk with her donors online, who donated for her surgery and followed her journey all the way from the US. H’On also reunited with Miss Universe Vietnam 2017 H’Hen Nie, the big sister that has always supported the little girl. The gathering made everyone emotional as we witnessed H’On’s transformation in both her body and state of mind. With a much stronger foot, H’On is beaming with happiness and confidence. The sad and insecure girl from 2020 is now much more talkative and smiley, as her foot finally feels normal again and she can walk with grace. Hen and Rad could not hold back their tears when recalling their journey together, praising H’On for how strong and resilient she has been, and reminding the little girl to keep studying well so she can stay away from early marriage and grow up to follow her dreams.

The VCF team is following up with her family closely to ensure H’On receives the medical assistance she needs so that she can completely recover with a strong healthy foot for the rest of her life. Your contributions and the dreams that you have allowed her to dream have changed H’On Mlo’s life forever and will continue to transform her future. This support will empower her to grow up to become a healthy, brilliant woman with a bright future as she deserves to be.

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