Vietnamese Orphans Reunite 30 Years After Airlift

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As Saigon fell 31 years ago, 57 Vietnamese orphans were evacuated from their war-ravaged country to start new lives in Canada. Among them was Thanh Campbell, now a member of Meadowlands Christian Reformed Church in Ancaster, Ontario.

Thanks to Campbell’s efforts, 40 of those orphans were reunited this past spring.

Campbell, who gives talks in many churches about his experience, said he’d always wondered about his past. That was just fanciful thinking until 2003, when after one of his talks he met Trent Kilner, another one of the orphans.

Together they began searching for other orphans, capturing national media attention. Campbell said “the impossible happened” when 40 of them were reunited in Toronto.

Nurses, pilots, doctors, volunteers, and others involved in the orphans’ evacuation joined the reunion, filling in details about their past. Campbell learned how dangerous the flight out had been and how sick the children were. He said DNA testing and going back to Vietnam might turn up other clues.

Campbell is filled with gratitude to God for the life he has had. “You know what you’ve been saved from. I cannot take my life in Canada for granted,” he said.

Campbell explained that those who don’t know their biological parents experience a void. He said that some families of the orphans have seen a difference in their child or sibling since the reunion. “One of the puzzle pieces isn’t missing anymore,” he said.

Thanh Campbell can be reached at thanhjames@hotmail.com. His website is www.57orphans.com

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