A bewildering denial

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Leaders of a charitable HIV/AIDS group have inexplicably halted support to needy recipients.

Since early this month, managers of Ho Chi Minh City's Nu Cuoi (Smile) Group, a charitable organization supporting needy HIV/AIDS-affected individuals, have stopped supplying aid to some recipients saying only that they had violated the group's regulations.

Fifty-four-year-old Huynh Thi Tuyet from Go Vap District said that after she and some other families attended the October 12th death anniversary of late Nu Cuoi founder Nguyen Van Hung, two managers of the charitable group announced the cuts.

Tuyet said she was shocked and bewildered by the "irrational" move.

The organization has now stopped providing Tuyet and her four grandchildren one with HIV and the rest whose parents are dying from the disease with financial aid provided by domestic and foreign philanthropists via the group.

Her family depends greatly on the VND1.2 million (US$71.6) per month provided by Nu Cuoi, she said.

In total, the group has now cut off support to 10 children whose families attended the ceremony.

Tuyet and her grandchildren are now facing tremendous hardship to cover living expenses and the children's school fees.

Nguyen Van Chuong, a 60-year-old motorbike taxi driver in District 12, said his grandchild was also removed from the group's milk recipient list for the same reason.

"What's wrong with our attendance at the death anniversary of [the group's] benefactor?" Chuong asked.

"These people call themselves social activists but the way they treated us is so bureaucratic and heartless," he said.

"Frankly speaking, many times when we went to get charitable money or milk for my grandchild, I felt hurt as though I was being treated like a beggar," Chuong added.

Early this week when reporters came to meet Nguyen Vu, head manager of Nu Cuoi, he said the organization had cut off aid because the families concerned had "violated the group's regulations."

Vu said the group had made a rule stating that parents and children must inform the group management in advance about attending any gatherings or meetings whatsoever.

"Families attended the death anniversary without informing us," said Vu. "Thus we had to cease providing aid to make sure they were not receiving support from other charity groups."

On October 21, the group management held a meeting of its own titled "Extraordinary Meeting for Parents Attending the October 12th Anniversary."

It was stated at the meeting that each family's actions would be individually assessed in regards to attending the benefactor's death anniversary.

"When we have assessed the case, we will decide whether to continue providing the aid or not," Vu said.

When reporters asked him what was wrong with attending the death anniversary, Vu answered "it's their own business to attend the anniversary or whatever. But in my own viewpoint, as they failed to inform us about their participation in advance, we have to halt the aid."

In regards to how long the aid would be withheld, he said, "It would take at least two or three months to examine the case."

When Thanh Nien asked Vu how the families would survive without the group's support, he said "I know all the families of the group have disadvantaged conditions but they have to accept the cut."

In addition, Vu has yet to inform the philanthropists that the aid they've provided is being withheld.

The organization refused to disclose the names of the charitable providers.

Nu Cuoi has until now supported some 52 needy families affected by HIV/AIDS.


Nguyen Van Hung, late founder of the charitable Nu Cuoi (Smile) group, and his French fiancée, Leslie Wiener, in a file photo taken last October prior to Hung's death from liver cancer

â–  Charitable HIV/AIDS organization Nu Cuoi (Smile) was founded in 2004 by Nguyen Van Hung, born in 1956.

â–  Before establishing Nu Cuoi, Hung had initiated the Thao Dan charity program for street children in 1992.

â–  Before devoting his life to philanthropy, Hung was a drug addict who spent time in and out of rehabilitation centers.

â–  Hung died in October 2007 from liver cancer. Before he passed away, he became engaged to French film director, Leslie Wiener. The couple had known each other for some 13 years and Wiener cared for Hung in his final days.

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