The newborn baby was abandoned around midnight on January 22 near a pagoda. Luckily, a nun was still awake cooking banh chung - a traditional sticky rice cake that often requires 12 hours of preparation.
Nun Hanh Hai heard a baby crying and she rushed to the gate to find an infant alone on the side of the road. Wrapped in a thin blanket, the baby appeared pale in the cold night.
The baby was immediately brought into the pagoda where the nuns warmed her up, saving her life.
No one had any information about the baby’s parents, who may have left their child near the pagoda knowing it adopted orphans.
The baby was named Bao Han and became the 128th orphan of the Dieu Giac Pagoda on Tran Nao Street in Ho Chi Minh City’s District 2.
The adoption of abandoned children began 23 years ago when head monk Nhu Tri found cast off baby just like Han.
During the first years, the nuns had to work very hard to raise the children. They sold cakes, incense and vegetarian food to cover their expenses, eventually saving enough money to build an orphanage.
Since then, the orphanage has survived thanks to donations made by visitors to the pagoda, who continue to be inspired by the miraculous survival stories of orphans with serious health problems.
“It was nine years ago when a group of voluntary students came to help the orphanage and brought to them a little girl they found somewhere during their voluntary campaigns. She was quiet and quite pale and thin,” said Huyen, one of the pagoda's volunteer, discussing the orphan My Ai.
She said Ai arrived at the pagoda blind and paralyzed and until recently she was still very weak and suffered from difficulty breathing.
The girl has been spending her time at the hospitals more than at the orphanage due to her ailments.
“We had to buy a coffin for her once when the doctors said she would not overcome. But she survived,” she said.
The three-year-old Phuoc Duyen is another of the orphanage's survivors.
The nuns said she was abandoned near the pagoda several years ago.
“Doctors said she had Down syndrome and congenital heart disease and would not survive for long,” said nun Hanh Bao, who manages the orphanage.
“The nuns had to ask for donations to pay for her surgery and the little girl recovered faster than everyone expected,” she said.
She said many orphans have graduated from universities and some have returned to the orphanage to teach the children.
“They said they should be responsible for the place where they grew up,” she said.
The orphanage at Dieu Giac Pagoda has become a family not only for the children but also for many volunteers.
Huyen said many women like herself volunteer at the orphanage because they feel like they have found a home there.
The 50-year-old unmarried woman from Quang Tri Province used to work as a lottery ticket vendor to eke out a living.
“I managed to earn a living selling lottery tickets. However, I volunteered to take care of children at the orphanage because I feel like I am part of a great family.”