This past Sunday was a special one for Smile Group, a grassroots organization that supports disadvantaged HIV/AIDS-affected families in Ho Chi Minh City. After operating out of the Thao Danh drop-in center for more than a year, Smile Group has found its own house in a beautiful building with an enclosed courtyard shaded by a mango tree. You can tell by the photos how excited the families are to have this new space for their meetings and activities.
What will they do with that new space? Lots. One of the best things about Smile Group is their focus on enrichment. Documentarian and social worker Leslie Wiener’s photographs never fail to express the ability of Smile Group’s activities to foster community-building among HIV-affected families, some of whom face deep stigmas in their physical communities. With ample accommodations, Elisabeth Nguyen will make yoga sessions more sustainable by enrolling in a course on teaching yoga for children (with her costs covered by the Global Fund for Children). Leslie is also seeking opportunities to have Macs supplied to the house to teach the kids practical computer skills. And of course, the dancing, singing and musical performances will continue, not to mention invaluable workshops on living with HIV/AIDS.
Thomas Maresca’s “Living Positive” cover story that follows the lives of three Smile Group families is no longer in the AsiaLIFE archives, but you can read the profile of Leslie that I contributed to the July 2009 People Issue (issue 28), still available in the online archives.
Here are some more photos from the day, courtesy of Leslie:
A bit of new school…
And a bit of old school
Crashing the dance floor
The gang’s all here
Enjoying the new house