Care for orphanages should come from love, devotion and enthusiasm, and that's exactly what 60-year-old Bùi Công Hiệp from HCM City has in abundance.
With his family, he has donated property to build shelters and care for orphaned children in the city.
For Hiệp, who now lives in Long Trường Ward in District 9, caring for orphans also means helping them to grow into valuable members of society.
He might have appeared to be just your average city-dweller, but that was before he and his family decided to donate 1,500sq.m of land and a three-storey house worth more than VNĐ100 billion (US$4.3 million) to house nearly a hundred orphans in 2017.
He and his wife Phạm Hoàng Lan, daughter Bùi Lan Hoanh, 31, and son Bùi Quang Huy, 26, have been running a factory for more than 20 years in Bình Thạnh District.
The factory is the family's major income. It is also the main financial source for them to care for 88 orphans at an orphanage named Thiên Thần (Angel).
FRESH START: The children have the chance to live, play and study at Thiên Thần Home. VNA/VNS Photo Hoàng Tuyết
Hiệp said he bought more than 2,500sq.m of land in District 9 after retiring 10 years ago.
“First, I thought I would buy the land just to fulfil my dream of building a small house for the family and particularly for me and my wife to enjoy in retirement. We wanted to relax by gardening and raising cattle while enjoying old age,” Hiệp said.
However, witnessing the plight of many homeless children, Hiệp decided to change his mind.
“Instead of building a house for ourselves, I convinced my wife we should build a 3-storey house to make a home for orphaned children,” he said.
SAVIOUR: Bùi Công Hiệp, 60, has donated property to build shelters and care for orphaned children in HCM City. VNA/VNS Photo Hoàng Tuyết
Hiệp said he was very surprised that his wife and two children agreed without any hesitation.
His two children even said they wanted to work with their parents to care for the orphans at Thiên Thần Home, just in case they became too old and weak to carry on their charitable work.
In 2010, Hiệp asked District 9’s authority for permission to open the home, and it was granted. Since then, the family has adopted dozens of orphaned children, the oldest of whom is just seven.
Before opening the home, Hiệp also did some research and tried to learn from experienced people about taking care of orphans.
Many of the people he met and talked with suggested it would be difficult for a man.
“Raising a child is extremely hard. For women, it is normal, but for a man, it is impossible”, and “To care for an infant, sometimes you have to stay up all night and you'll lose your social life”, were just two of the comments he received.
However, Hiệp said he had vowed to follow through with his plan because raising children was his passion, not only his responsibility to society.
“I didn't do it for the recognition or honour,” Hiệp said
He was determined to engage in the work, and the more difficulties he faced the more he wanted to succeed for the benefit of the children.
Every day, he gets up at 4am, and prepares clothes, food and milk for the babies. Some days, all the children wake up early and start crying. Some are hungry for milk while others want to go to the toilet.
Hiệp said he had to be mentally strong to keep going, and that's exactly what he has done.
His family agree that Hiệp is great with the kids, and the best care-giver at the home.
He just wants the children to grow up healthy and become good people, with kindness, tolerance and morality, not necessarily success.
"I think forcing a child to develop in a certain direction is difficult and painful for them, especially for those who don't have the love of a father or mother," Hiệp said.
FRAGILE: Orphaned and abandoned children are cared for at Thiên Thần Home in HCM City's District 9. VNA/VNS Photo Hoàng Tuyết
His teaching methods involve helping the children develop their own talents and interests.
Hiệp revealed that adopting a child was tricky because getting a birth certificate involves contacting their family for personal identification.
He always makes sure that children have their family names on the certificates to make it easier for them to contact their families when they grow up.
For the children who are left in front of the home, Hiệp said he also tried to track down their families to establish a line of contact when the adopted children reach adulthood.
When he is unable to do so, the children are given the adoptive family name.
According to Hiệp, local authorities have helped him a lot and made it easier to get birth certificates for almost all of them except five whose records are incomplete due to problems with new adoptive regulations.
After seven years with just two nannies, Thiên Thần Home now has 10 nannies to take care of the children.
Hiệp himself covers the cooking, taking the children to school and teaching social skills. He has been doing that for more than seven years.
Asides from his wish to ensure a healthy life for the children, Hiệp also cares about teaching them and developing their talents.
Many children at the home know how to swim and do sports, music and painting, and they study foreign languages and informatics.
Võ Dung Hạnh, the manager of the home, said Hiệp’s day typically started at 4am.
“I have been working with him for seven years, but I've never heard him complain about feeling tired,” Hạnh added.
Nguyễn Ngọc Cường, vice chairman of the People's Committee in District 9, said Hiệp and the home had set a good example for locals in the district.
"Doing what Hiệp has done takes a lot of thought and love, and benefits the community and society," Cường said.
Hiệp's family plans to build a new 5-storey house next year on the 2,500sq.m plot he has just given to the children with a total estimated construction cost of VNĐ5 billion.
He also plans to build an education centre in Bình Thạnh District.
"I am planning to build the centre for children of different ages to live, study, play and be happy,” Hiệp said. VNS