We have completed a wide range of small-scale assistance projects for orphanages, villages and families. Some projects are identified by local people, others are initiated by us. Our community development projects in the 2014 financial year included visiting the poorest families in Hung Son indigenous village, and improving their household income; providing education incentives for three struggling families in Hue City; assisting 3 orphanages in the Mekong Delta and furnishing a soup kitchen in Nga Nam (Mekong Delta).
HUNG SON INDIGENOUS VILLAGE
After making some local contacts, we were guided to Hung Son (about 150km inland from Cau Giat). Our guide took us to the poorest children in the village. We distributed clothing to them. The clothing was Vietnamese made and purchased locally at a Hung Son market stall. We then interviewed households in the village. We drew up and costed a list of items to assist each household with income and survival. This assistance package was 2 blankets, 6 pigs, 10 chickens and bags of rice. This project was arranged through Thuc, a local priest.
THREE FAMILIES IN HUE
A group of Vietnamese students in Hue City, Huyen, Hiep, Chau and Thuy, wished to assist us. I asked them to locate 3 poor local families and make a plan to provide for the children. Each family received education incentives in the form of school supplies, a study lamp, bicycle and children’s books. Here is the “shopping list” organised by Chau:
4.05 M for 3 bicycles
0.57M for 6 school bags
0.15M for 2 small tables for children’s study
0.27M for 3 study lamps
1.3M for books, notebooks, pens and school bags
Later we helped with school fees. Each family’s story, extracted from Chau’s reports, is told here
This family has a man with two wives. Second wife lived with him and helped care for the children of the first wife. The children of first wife expelled second wife and her children from the house. The oldest boy of first wife has refused to care for the father because he is diseased. So second wife lives in a rented room nearby with her two children and prepares meals for her husband and takes them to him in the house nearby. Second wife collects rubbish from the streets to sell plastic for recycling. The daughter is of school age (9 years of age). Neighbours have offered primary education for the daughter. Daughter has disabilities/illness that makes it difficult to keep up with other students at school.
Father died and mother survives by collecting rubbish from streets to sell recyclable plastic. She has two children, Tram (girl aged 7 in grade one) and Cong (boy aged 4). Mother suffers some mental illness and beats the children. Neighbours do not interfere because if anyone looks at her, she hits them more. Mother wants daughter to help her collect rubbish, but daughter is ashamed to work on the street and wants to go to school. Now that she is of school age, 7 years, neighbours have encouraged mother to let daughter go to school.
This household’s father has a heart problem. He gets income from light work, cutting decorations out of polystyrene foam. The wife’s income is scrounging food scraps from neighbours to raise pigs in the house. All three children suffer severe asthma. The eldest, aged 19, helps Mum. The second is a girl in Year 11. The third is a boy in Year 8.
We were shown a large rice bag full of used Ventolin sprays, representing three months of use. The family’s income seems to be mainly spent on keeping up a supply of Ventolin. I did not see how the polystyrene is cut, but if cut with a hot wire, then that would instantly explain the asthma.
The mother’s income is collecting food left-overs from local people to raise pigs in the back of the house. Her husband raises money by cutting polystyrene foam to make decorations. All the children suffer from severe asthma. Family income is absorbed in paying for a sufficient supply of Ventolin (asthma medication).
THREE MEKONG DELTA ORPHANAGES
After contacting three orphanages near Can Tho, I asked my volunteer interpreter Hien to design and complete a project to assist them. Hien visited and interviewed their staff. She drew up a “shopping list” project budget of provisions and educational support. I transferred $2,700 for these projects and Hien carried out the work. Based on her extensive experience of working with American organisations, Hien provided a full financial record and detailed report for donors. The following is extracted from her reports.
Project budget for Hoa Mai, Huong Duong, and Buu Tri Pagoda orphanages in Can Tho, Mekong Delta region:
600 AUD for 2 washing machines (for Hoa Mai and Huong Duong orphanages);
400 AUD for 1 fridge (for Hoa Mai orphanage);
150 AUD for 1 rice cooker (for Hoa Mai orphanage);
300 AUD for 20 sets of text books (for Huong Duong orphanage);
100 AUD for 20 sets of raincoats and slippers (for Huong Duong orphanage);
100 AUD for 100kg of washing powder (for all 3 orphanages);
50 AUD for 100 bars of soap (for all 3 orphanages);
500 AUD for 100 boxes of instant noodles (for all 3 orphanages);
100 AUD for 100 sets of hand towels, toothbrushes and tooth paste (for all 3 orphanages);
400 AUD for one-year school fee for 5 students at Buu Tri Pagoda
LETTER FROM CAN THO, MEKONG DELTA
Cô Dương Quý Hiền, volunteering for us at three orphanages in Can Tho
I am using donated money sent from Friends of Vietnam Orphanages Inc to buy supplies for three orphanages in Can Tho. I started by asking the manager of each orphanage to draw up a request for their most needed supplies.
For Huong Duong and Hoa Mai orphanages, they already have many things in stock such as soaps, tooth paste, instant noodles, towels, crayons, etc. The Buu Tri orphans are in greater need of supplies than the Huong Duong and Hoa Mai orphanages. So, I am giving more to the Buu Tri Pagoda orphans, who are in need of food (boxes of instant noodles) for this summer.
HUONG DUONG ORPHANAGE
I visited Huong Duong and Hoa Mai orphanages on June 8. The road in front of the orphanages is being dug to widen the national road. It may take months to complete the road. So, I travelled there by taxi and parked outside. We then carried in the supplies through a temporary access.
The children usually return to their home villages in June and come back in July for the next school year. But now, their main sponsors from the “Rayon De Soleil” Group are visiting them. So, I took a few photos of the children in their rooms. Ms Thuan, the Chief Accountant, happily smiles when receiving the gifts.
As the Huong Duong orphans have some kind of commitments from their French sponsors “Rayon De Soleil”, the children can individually write letters to their Godparents abroad (on Christmas), reporting on their achievements and asking for presents such as dolls, teddy bears, bikes and other toys. Their dormitory looks more comfortable than the housing of Buu Tri orphans. Each child has their own separate bed, with pillows, blankets and new clothes for holidays.
HOA MAI ORPHANAGE
Access to Hoa Mai orphanage is in the same situation as in Huong Duong orphanage. The taxi parked on the ground of a nearby company. We brought donated provisions over a narrow way.
In June, the children return to their home village, so I could only take a photo of the yard. Ms Lieu, Deputy Manager, highly appreciates the gifts. She has not put the electric rice cooker, the washing machine and the fridge in use until the children come back in July. I emailed photos of thank-you notes from Hoa Mai orphanage. The note that I drafted for them has a complete list of the supplies purchased with your donations.
BUU TRI ORPHANAGE
I visited the orphans of Buu Tri on June 5, not at the pagoda, but at their “summer house”.
There are more than 50 orphans at Buu Tri pagoda. From August to May, they go to school from 7am to 5pm and return to the pagoda only in the evenings and at weekends. That does not disturb the solemn religious activities at the pagoda. But in summer, they are too noisy to stay there. The Head Nun, Ms Tam Niem, has to move them to a “summer house”, which is 20 km far from Can Tho city. The house is an inheritance from her deceased parents. It is in a remote village, which is accessed by canoe more easily than by motorbike because the lane is too narrow and slippery in rainy season.
The supplies of 50 boxes of instant noodles, some boxes of washing powders, shampoos, textbooks, etc… was transported by a minivan to a river jetty. The supplies were then loaded onto canoe for the village. We arrived at noon. Having finished lunch, the children cheerfully welcomed us and carried the supplies home before it started to rain. The rain eased the heat of summer.
There are more things to tell about the orphans of Buu Tri pagoda. I am telling the story of my visit to help you to understand their situation.
Besides 50 children here, 6 more orphans are left at the pagoda because they are just a few months old. Most of the children are from 5 to 10 years old. They enjoy living in the wild very much. Playing around the village, washing in the rain, chasing each other on muddy ground, catching fish, snails, small crabs and insects by themselves to supplement their food supplies are their normal activities during summer.
The children also have to review their studies with tutors in the village during summer. After lunch, they have a nap of about one hour. Girls sleep on the floor in the main room inside the house. Mosquito nets are hung all day but only used at night. Boys sleep in wooden beds in the attached hall at the end of the house. An elder boy about 14 years old helps to take care of the children, ordering them to lie in silence in order to sleep quietly. After a nap, they will have instant noodles as a snack. They consume about 2 boxes of instant noodles a day, for breakfast, tea time and supper. Each box contains 30 packets of 65 gram instant noodles.
The elder boys rarely sleep in daytime. They love going out to catch crabs and snails, boiling them and sharing together happily. They put their bikes in a warehouse filled with dry branches from trees, used as fuel for cooking.
Ms Tam Niem, the God Mother, is loved and respected by all children. It’s herself who established this orphanage without any kind of paperwork for permission or license for her organization. She visits them sometimes during summer, bringing them food and supplies from the donations in the pagoda. There are some overseas sponsors for the children. For example, Javier, a Belgian man, visits his sponsored “godson” once a year. Each year his contribution is to pay for a holiday trip to the beach or mountains for all the children. No permanent sponsorship is assured for the orphans. They rely on individual donors from the pagoda, mostly from Buddhists. One source of donation promises to finance her to rebuild the house behind the pagoda into a multistorey building so that children could have enough rooms during summer.
I think that the Head Nun of Buu Tri Pagoda has to concern herself more with the basics such as school fees and food for the orphans, rather than toys and leisure items. She can’t refuse any child who is left without identification in front of her door. That’s really a burden for her, although there have been many donors since the orphanage was started.
One little girl suffers from nettle rash after playing on the muddy ground. Other boys said that she was bitten by worms. Poor her! She keeps on scratching because of itching through the whole body. If only there was a dose of anti-allergy medicine to relieve her itching immediately. Even the Head Nun and other women in the house can do nothing to help her. In my childhood, I did many times suffer from itching because of rash or insect bites. I feel so helpless seeing the miserable girl in her pain.
As the children walk bare foot around the house, they must have lots of worms and parasites in their bodies. Using the money you are sending, I am buying them worming medicine in August, after paying school fees for five orphans. If there still is some excess money, I will buy more notebooks and pens for them.
I have the impression that orphans at Huong Duong and Hoa Mai orphanages are luckier than the ones at Buu Tri Pagoda. They are in better care because their organisation is set up by overseas Vietnamese charities. Buu Tri orphans are under spontaneous management of one nun.
More information to think about : Huong Duong and Hoa Mai orphanages only accept children above three years old. That means they are raised by somebody from birth until being admitted into the orphanages. In my view they are not so much orphans as children of very poor families. At least they have relatives such as grandparents or uncles.
At Buu Tri pagoda, most children are left in front of the door from birth. Many suffer from blindness or disabilities due to poor care. They are not obliged to be vegetarians as nuns. Very few continue higher schooling until college. They grow up more wild than the selected children in other orphanages.
One difference between the orphanages is that the orphans of Buu Tri Pagoda sleep on the floor while the ones at Huong Duong and Hoa Mai orphanages have their own bed for individuals. The ones of Buu Tri Pagoda don’t have toys such as teddy bears and dolls. They don’t write letters directly to their sponsors, such as the ones at Huong Duong and Hoa Mai orphanages do annually.
I’m really proud of this work. Your inspiration and help has enabled my contribution to these poor children.
I have attached photos of invoices and sheets of cost explanations. I made some translations of the complicated bills for your tracking. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask me for further explanation.
That’s it. God bless people for the donations!
NGA NAM SOUP KITCHEN
The Nga Nam soup kitchen in the Mekong Delta, is a group of local volunteers. They provide food for local patients, students on a tight budget and the town’s poor. We provided stainless steel tables and plastic chairs for sit down meals at the soup kitchen. Organised by Long Quach who is associated with Lyneham Vietnamese temple.
VILLAGE WATER SUPPLY
At Quỳnh Ngọc fishing village, near Cau Giat in Nghe An province, fish stocks are in decline and employment is uncertain. Many people risk drinking from local wells to save money. Illness, particularly among the very young, is the result. Thuc, the local priest, formed a plan to run a filtered water operation from his church.
I asked for plans and specifications. I then put the young priest in contact with Phong, a priest in Saigon who completed a chemistry degree at uni and had worked as an agent for a water filtration plant manufacturer (Watermax). Thankfully, Phong travelled to the village and supervised the installation. Local people volunteered in the building of the small factory, and local people work the filtration plant. The filtered water is then sold at a heavily discounted, affordable price.
Thuc says, “With this water filter system, we can provide water for the whole village, and create part-time jobs for at least 5 people. On a good day we hope to sell 3,000 litres, being 1,000 litres at 5,000 dong/20litre container to local farmers and 2,000 litres at 10,000 dong/20litre container to people outside the village. After we have paid the workers, electricity, freight and repairs of machinery and equipment, we hope to earn up to 200,000 dong ($10 AUD) per day of operation, to pay off the loan. But we cannot build the plant without one-third outside funding.”
True to his word, Thuc did everything I asked for, in terms of planning and cost estimates. So when I received photos of the completed plant in operation, I was happy to transfer the promised one-third contribution of the total cost.
PREVIOUS PROJECTS WERE:
Community nutrition project; Orphanage computer training; Village library; Orphanage food prep area; Bicycle fleet; Digital upgrade; Rice harvester; Village cafe improvement; Assist Aussie volunteer groups; Orphanage playground; Design and feasibility study for orphanage special care unit (construction funded by The Cardoner Project).
Community Nutrition project
Free-range chicken farm provides some eggs, meat and income. Providing capital for purchase of more chicks to be purchased allows them to be raised for egg laying, meals or re-sale. The benefits of this project continue to accrue over time as income is reallocated into meeting the needs of the community. The photo shows an inspection of the existing chicken farm, prior to expansion.
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Orphanage Tutoring and Computer Training
We paid for a computer trainer for Danh. Danh, pictured below, has not been able to attend school but has taught himself to read, write and use a computer.
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Orphanages often lack a library or student study room with shared internet computers, books and DVDs. Such a concept is novel to the local community and they are concerned about potential for misuse and theft. We have purchased start-up study libraries with shelving, furniture, books, computers and DVD.
Orphanage Kitchen Supplies
Much of the food preparation in village orphanages is done on the floor. Improved hygiene is essential for better health at the orphanage. Replacing scratched and broken kitchenware is our simple way of improving traditional kitchens. The kitchen cook decides what is needed.
The village café is an important part of the village identity and social life. Modest support ensures village cafes remains viable in being able to generate collective income for the community. The photo shows an Aussie student volunteer group patronising the cafe.
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