Street Children's Program/Family #2: Our first project, completed in March 2015, was to help the in Da Nang, Vietnam. This family is made up of 11 boys, ages 9-18, living under the care of a Housemother in a dorm type setting. She asked for items such as a rice cooker, food locker, wardrobes to hold the boys' clothes, a book case, cleaning supplies, clothing for the boys, new fans, as well as some staples for the Home, which we were able to provide. Our organization raised money here and purchased the items in Vietnam since they were much cheaper in country and it was unrealistic to try to ship them.
The housemother also asked for a computer since the one the boys were using for their schoolwork was not working, which we were able to provide since our Chairman of our Board of Directors, Dr. Michael Trombley, M.D. and his wife, Michelle, donated a laptop for the home. We were so glad to be able to surprise them with this donation and the Housemother and boys were extremely happy to finally have a working computer.
Duc Son Pagoda: While in Vietnam, Thao and I also visited a Buddhist orphanage at Duc Son Pagoda in Hue that houses over160 undernourished children. Since the Buddhist nuns who care for them are vegetarian, the children do not receive the protein they need from meat sources and milk is not readily available and is very expensive, so they lack Vitamin D, as well. Our contribution to the orphanage this year included a trip to the local market to shop for staples and non-perishable foods for the children. With our small budget, we were able to buy detergent, cooking oil, 2 cases of noodles for the children, as well as 3 cases (144 servings) of packaged asceptic milk. This was not an official project for our organization since Living Water does not yet have PACCOM certification and, as such, cannot participate in projects without express permission of the Vietnamese government. Once our certification is acquired, we will be able to operate in all provinces of the country.
The orphanage is open to all people, so Thao and I took that opportunity to visit with a donation and sit down with the nun in charge. We were welcomed with tea and then a younger nun showed us around the orphanage, which was absolutely spotless. Most of the children were at school. Only the special needs kids and infants were there when we visited, but we were allowed to visit with them and I asked the kids if they minded if I took their pictures. I've posted the ones I took -- they were all so wonderful.
Next year, if we are able to return to the orphanage, we hope to be able to take Dr. Trombley and/or another physician with us so that we can provide medical check-ups for the children, the greatest need the children have, according to the head nun that Thao and I spoke to. She said, through Thao who interpreted for me, that many Americans send expensive things like video games or other electronic toys and new clothes, which are nice, but they miss the real need of the children altogether. She told us their needs are much more basic than that. They need Food. Milk. Supplements. Medical check-ups.
International Children's Day Celebration of Music at the Women & Children's Cancer Hospital in Da Nang - May 15th & 16th of this year: we were able to donate packaged milk and participate in honoring and encouraging many children at the hospital. We were very happy that three of the boys from our very first project at the Street Children's Home decided to be a part of the event with us. Read more about the ceremony here and see the photos that our liaison, Thao, took here.
1. Our hope is to start a Milk Program here next year to allow children in area schools to purchase the value of a package of aseptic milk, since that is what is available to most of the children in orphanages in Vietnam as a dairy source, given the prohibitive cost of fresh cow’s milk. In that way, local children can give milk to a child overseas for very little money. We also aim to make the program a way to foster better global relations among children. When a child donates money for a package of milk, they can send a picture of themselves with their donation to a Vietnamese child, if they choose. In return, the Vietnamese child who receives the milk can send a picture back, with the help of our Team.
Through our Milk Program, we hope to foster a better appreciation and understanding of what other children across the globe live with every day and to make charity real for children in a way they can understand. We hope this will put charity on a financial level they will understand and make it small enough that all of them are able to do. The cost of one package of asceptic milk in Vietnam is approximately $1.25. So, we believe the Milk Program is something each child will be able to afford to participate in if they want to.
2. We also plan to work in area hospitals in Da Nang, helping to prepare porridge for those patients who are too poor to pay for their food. Unlike in America, patients who cannot pay for meals while they are being treated simply do not eat if their families cannot afford to bring them food. We will be able to prepare porridge in the morning and take it to the hospital to give to needy families, so that not only their family member in the hospital, but the rest of their family members will have a meal for the day.
3. This year, Thao and I visited 2 families affected by Agent Orange that we are hoping Living Water will be able to help next year. I will have photos up soon in our gallery of both families. As many of you know, Agent Orange was a defoliant used during the Vietnam War. At the time, no one had any idea of the harmful effects it was capable of. Generations later, children are still experiencing birth defects and brain damage. Families of those impacted by the chemical in such a way that they have not been able to provide for themselves have been given small stipends by the government, but they still need help from outside sources just to get by. The two families Thao and I met were living in the harshest of conditions, going so far as to cook whatever they had outside over wood fires. As far as what their needs from us were, one family needed a pig; the other family needed a cow. Something as simple as an animal is able to change the entire way of life for these families. We are committed as an organization to make good things happen in the lives of people like these who desperately need someone to extend the hand of compassion and love to them.
4. Our biggest project scheduled for 2017 in Vietnam is our ESL program in Da Nang. We have a plan taking shape that will allow our team to partner with the university students at a community center to start a conversational English speaking program that will begin to bridge the cultural gap between tourists and locals. As a former English teacher, I'm very excited about the possibilities this program entails.