Agent Orange Families
Rural Areas of Da Nang
Agent Orange was a defoliant used during the Vietnam War. No one knew at the time the horrible effects it would have on the people who were exposed to it. Even today, there are children born with birth defects and mental challenges as a result of their parents' and grandparents' exposure to the pesticide.
As a result of such debilitations in these families, either affecting parent(s) or one or more children, it takes a heavy financial toll on their ability to provide for themselves. The government of Da Nang offers them a small stipend to help support themselves, but they still need help from outsiders just to get by.
They live in extremely harsh conditions, run-down homes, very little furniture and what they do have is in poor condition. They don't have televisions or cars or any "extras" of any kind. In fact, they cook what little food they are able to get out of their little gardens on charcoal fires outside. Like the doves, or "pigeons," as they call them, that they raise to eat that live in cages right outside of their homes.
They make money any way they can. One of the families we visited was drying some sort of tea while we were visiting. I asked what kind it was and they explained that it was for new mothers who had trouble getting their appetites back.
And their life circumstances can become perilous in an instant. During typhoon season, before I visited, one man's home had been so badly damaged that he needed $2,000USD to fix it (an enormous sum with the exchange rate and considering what money that man had access to). The storm had completely destroyed his daughter's room, who was severely mentally challenged and completely bound to a wheelchair. He had two other disabled children and he himself was missing an arm. The storm had also taken off his roof and he didn't know what he was going to do. I felt helpless for him as we sat on the mismatched plastic chairs -- the best he had -- that he had offered us to sit on when we arrived in his concrete living room.
However, something so small can make the biggest difference in their lives. For instance, two of the families Thao and I visited needed farm animals -- one a cow, the other a pig -- each for the price of around $750.00USD. Having an animal to pull a piece of farm equipment means the ability to grow enough food to feed your family and sometimes even enough to sell for extra cash to buy other real necessities, like medicine. (Or having an animal that can have other little animals that you can sell can also mean the difference between having enough and going without.) It is remarkable that something as fundamental as a cow or a pig could make this kind difference in a person's life!
It is people like these that we simply cannot forget. Yes, it's uncomfortable to look at. But, in doing so, in helping those we see who are suffering, we connect with the very best part of who we were meant to be. And I just don't see how we can ever regret doing something like that.
I hope you'll consider helping us to help them when we go to Vietnam next February/March.his roof