Tran Nghia was a 17 year old high school girl in Hanoi when I first met her. She had been born with a neurological disorder that never allowed her to use her legs. She was always carried by her parents, siblings and friends. I was introduced to Nghia and her family at a wheelchair distribution in Hanoi in 2003. I was immediately captivated by her smile and enthusiasm and, through a translator, found out that she wanted to study English and go to medical school to become a doctor.
She invited me to her home for tea on my next visit to Vietnam which actually occurred one year later. At that meeting we learned much more about each other and stayed in touch through e-mail and Facebook during the next 8 years. Nghia unfortunately could not become a doctor due to her disability but she did learn English and translates documents for a Vietnamese company.
In November of this year I returned to Vietnam with a dozen veterans and their spouses. I arranged to meet Nghia and her mom at our Hanoi distribution. It was definitely one of my trip highlights when I glanced over from the podium and saw the two them walking into the distribution. Her smile was as radiant as I remembered it back in 2003. I immediately stopped my speech and introduced our personal story to the audience. She met the veterans, was interviewed by a television station and made a short speech of her own about how the wheelchair had impacted her life. It is always a joy to give someone a wheelchair and it is an even greater joy to personally watch and hear how that wheelchair improved their life.