Forty years ago, a little girl handed a young refugee a doll. That small act of kindness shaped the course of the refugee's life and started a lifelong friendship.
Dr. Nhung Tran-Davies was only five when she, her siblings and mother arrived at Edmonton airport in 1979. The family had fled their home because of the Vietnam War and spent 8 months in a Malaysian refugee camp before an Alberta church sponsored them to immigrate to Canada.
"Being four years old having gone from war and poverty, we had lost everything, so being cramped up in a boat with a boat with 300 other refugees in the belly of the boat I can only remember how nauseating and suffocating it was," Nhung recalled. "People were throwing up where they were sitting ... defecating where they were, it was just a horrible experience."
Nhung and her family had lost everything. They had nothing. But when they passed through the gates of the airport, a young girl named Adrienne was waiting for Nhung with a doll.
"This little girl presented a little gift … this doll lit up my heart and in that moment, it meant everything to me," Nhung told CTV's Your Morning. "The doll came to symbolize for me all the kindness, compassion, and generosity of Canadians and I knew that our lives would change forever."
The gift also began a life-long friendship between Adrienne and Nhung, who continue to visit each other to this day.
And while it may have seemed like a small gesture, that gift had a ripple effect for Nhung who credits it for inspiring her to become a doctor and help others. "Knowing now that all that I have, and all that I've become, is because of this simple act of kindness, I live to this day to pay forward the kindness," she said.