Duc Son Pagoda Orphanage is located in Hue, approximately 2.5 hours from Da Nang, Vietnam by train, which is how Thao and I decided to travel there. Because it is located in a different Province than Da Nang, and Living Water did not have special permission by the government to conduct an official Project there, we did not use organization money during our visit. Before we can operate in all Provinces of Vietnam, we must have what is known as PACCOM Certification, which we are currently in the process of applying for. So, we did not have permission as an organization to visit Duc Son Pagoda Orphanage. However, I am including the visit Thao and I made there, along with the pictures we took of the orphanage and of the items we brought with us to donate because this orphanage is a high priority on our list as a Project for next year. Our biggest hope is to have at least 1 doctor to take with us to this place to administer check-ups to the 160+ children who live here and who desperately need them. I would also like to find a dentist who would be willing to come give them check-ups and teach them how to care for their teeth.
About the orphanage: It is run by Buddhist nuns who are vegetarians. Because they don't eat meat, the children suffer from malnourishment. The orphanage itself is immaculate, as you will see in the pictures, but the lack of proper nutrition is a serious problem. And just like the children in the hospital in Da Nang, these children need packaged milk. Lots of it. Dairy milk is very expensive and children need the calcium and Vitamin D in milk to grow.Packaged milk does not require refrigeration and lasts much longer than dairy milk, so it not only more cost effective, it is more practical, as well.
When Thao and I visited the orphanage, I used my personal funds so as not to disobey government regulations by operating as Living Water in a Province without permission. Thao and I stopped at the Supermarket on our way there and purchased washing powder, cooking oil, noodles, packaged milk, and other items Thao knew from experience would be very appreciated by the nuns.
The taxi driver was very kind and he helped us unload everything we purchased when we got there and waited for us while we toured the orphanage. Then he took us to visit the garden the nuns kept to raise vegetables for themselves and for the restaurant they ran to make money for the orphanage.
When we first arrived, the Head Nun, invited Thao and me to sit for tea and she told me, through Thao, that many, many foreigners, mostly Americans, visit the orphanage. She said they bring many gifts. Usually toys. But the children don't need toys, she said. They don't know what to do with expensive video games or iPods or remote controlled cars. They are hungry. They need milk. They need a doctor. They need food. Every Day. Every Single Day.
After Thao and I finished our tea, we toured the facility with a younger nun. She is the one pictured in our cover photo on our main gallery page. We met some of the children who were not at school. They were children who were either handicapped or too young to attend school. Thao sang and spoke to a beautiful little baby in a crib (we will have a picture posted of her) who was abandoned by her mother. The name the nuns had given her meant "daughter" and she was full of joy. In that same room, there were older children playing with and taking care of some of the younger children. It was evident that all of them were loved and well taken care of.
When we finished our tour of the orphanage, I asked if we could see their garden, so the nun got in the taxi with us and gave our driver directions to a lovely little garden tucked way back away from the living area. At the entrance was a cow to welcome us. In the garden was a lot of tea growing, as well as ginger.
We had a wonderful visit to this lovely orphanage and after we left, I felt more committed than ever to find the kind of help they needed to bring back to them in 2016. So, our goal will be to bring them medical care and milk. I am hoping that in addition to securing at least one doctor to take with us on our trip next year, we will be able to implement our Milk Program in conjunction with one of the local elementary schools in Cabarrus county.