From Orphan to Renowned Artist

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News- Dan 5

Our very first orphanage (assigned to us in 1993 by the Vietnamese Government in Hanoi) was the Thuy An Center for Handicapped Children. Many of the kids were deaf but it also included those suffering from Post-Polio, Agent Orange, Cerebral Palsy or other birth defects. Even though the staff there did the best they could, the conditions were bleak and dismal. At one time, Mother Theresa had placed two nuns there to help the children. We were asked to renovate the orphanage and to provide exercise equipment, new wheelchairs, offer training programs, etc. which we did. We were also asked to sponsor a new building for babies and healthy children to be placed for adoption. We did that as well. During our very first visit, we met a small boy, about 5 years old, named Dai Nguyen. News- Dan 1

During our very first visit, we met a small boy, about 5 years old, named Dai Nguyen. He was the only healthy child in the orphanage and we asked if we could place him for adoption. At first they agreed but when the formal adoption papers were presented to the authorities they simply would not approve his adoption. We asked Mr. Tue, Director of the Adoption Unit at the MOLISA (Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs) for his help. We also introduced Mr. Tue to my sister, Roberta, whom he had met before and who wanted to adopt Dai. Mr. Tue said he would try his best as he could not understand why the first adoptive family was not approved. He tried but he was never successful in getting approval.

Joy would check on him each time she went to the orphanage or was in Hanoi. He was a good student and was the only healthy child that could speak as most of the kids were deaf. He became their translator. We all realized that Dai would not be leaving Vietnam. So my sister Roberta decided to sponsor him. For several years, she kindly donated a monthly stipend to keep Dai healthy and in school. Whenever she or I traveled to Vietnam we would always bring special clothes, toys or items for Dai. He became a very special person to all of us.

News- Dan 2It was obvious that Dai was very artistic. Either Roberta or I would take him shopping for art supplies on our trips. He would give us some of his drawings and art work. Roberta told him that if he studied hard and was accepted at art school she would pay his expenses. In Vietnam, tuition for disadvantaged students is free but it is still difficult to be accepted. Children need to provide for their own uniforms, living expenses, books and supplies, and that is out of reach for many children in Vietnam.

Dai moved to Ho Chi Minh City to start his higher education at the University of Fine Arts in 2004. He changed his legal name to Dan and graduated and is now earning his living through his art and is making a real name for himself in the art world. He is now prominent in the art field with “non-cubism” artworks. Dan’s paintings were recently featured in an exhibition called Non-Cubism at the Applied Art Gallery in Ho Chi Minh City’s Binh Thanh District. The exhibition featured 22 paintings made of acrylic on canvas, attracting visitors’ attention by lines of colors weaving together and forming into structures which are able to create profound feelings.

~ Dawn Degenhardt ~

Dan’s art was also featured in The Saigon Times:

Professional videos of his work may also be viewed on YouTube at or

Thanks from painter Nguyen Quoc Dan- Dec 2014

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