The next morning, we took a bus to Kon Tum (48 km) to go visit a colony for lepers and assess how we can help. The Sisters of Providence from France initially created the village when they decided to gather the lepers of the area and care for them. The village has 1000 people living in home settings where the 70 active lepers live with their families. The sisters cook meals for the lepers daily and they come to the central kitchen to get them. There are 150 children in the village, and add to that number several minority children from the surrounding areas who come to the village daily for schooling or childcare. Some of them come from families unable to care for them and they stay in dormitories in the camp where the sisters care for them. The conditions are extremely basic. We have offered the Sisters to help them with school supplies, over the counter medication for the children, tuition for older children who need to attend school outside the camp, and other necessities as the needs arise.
Sunday, July 30, 2017
Twins for Hope went on its second official mission since its creation: Executive Director Johanne Wagner and Mai Nguyen, our Vietnamese representative, had a productive time from June 26 to July 4, 2017. They did what they love doing the most: helping children in Vietnam, while meeting new partners who share the very same passion.
Our adventures started in the province of BaRia: we secured a room in a hotel sitting on the beautiful coastline, in Vung Tau, by the East Sea. Twins for Hope supports two centres in Ba Ria province: a vocational centre in Long Hai where 160 children attend training, and a centre run by a congregation of sisters where they care for 60 youngsters, most of them suffering from disabilities. Twins for Hope offered 3 bicycles to 3 children in Long Hai:
Thao (2001): Thao’s mom passed away and her father left. She lives with her uncle’s family and they are very poor. Thao has only completed a grade 5. She studies sewing.
Thuy (2005): Her father passed away and her mother left. Thuy lives with her 80-year-old grandma. She is in grade 1.
Tuan (2000): His father passed away. He lives with his mother who fishes. He is studying in grade 3 and is learning to fix motorbikes.
In Ba Ria, Mai and Johanne offered the sisters cooking seasonings, toothpaste, toothbrushes, Advil, dental floss, soap, cleaning products and diapers. We marveled at the great interactions between the children and their caregivers. Those sisters are totally dedicated to the well being of the residents and we were pleased to see how friendly everyone is.
Following those 2 visits in Ba Ria province, Mai and Johanne made their way back to Ho Chi Minh City to catch a flight to Pleiku, in Gia Lai province (700 m above sea level) where we met with two valuable partners who helped us access our destinations by way of motorbike. Over hills, then dodging livestock (chickens, water buffalos, cows, dogs, pigs, goats) on a dirt road filled with potholes, we made our way to Chư Sê (32 km) where we met a 56 year old man who takes care of 72 children who otherwise would have nowhere else to go.
A note on the Father:
About 10 years ago, he was in a village and saw a group of villagers trying to bury the corpse of a mother who had just died in labor. They believed it was the baby’s fault. They were going to bury both of them, the baby alive, stuffed in the mother’s tummy. Dad saw this, grabbed the baby and started running. The villagers caught up with him, but the man promised to raise the child, following her ancestors’ traditions.
As time went on he ended up with more and more kids under his care.
Over half of the children are homeschooled by the father while the other ones are able to attend some sort of education outside of the home. The oldest is even attending University, thanks to the help of benefactors who pay for her tuition! Number 72 of the children had arrived the day before our visit: abandoned and found in the woods nearby, he was brought over to the house. Newborn baby boy, maybe one week old at most, barely 2 kg, he had not been examined by anyone. Johanne, mom of 9, took a look at him, checking for the obvious, but her and Mai felt he should be seen by a health care professional. Twins for Hope paid for transportation of the man and the child to the nearest hospital and also paid for the medical consultation. The baby boy was found to be healthy, to everyone’s relief. Twins for Hope provided blankets for the household, as well as baby formula, diapers and baby wipes to help out with the new addition.
Running out of time on that day with several mechanical issues with a motorbike, the crew opted to postpone our scheduled visit to Kon Tum to the following day. Also, the weather seemed a bit too uncertain and we were concerned darkness would catch us.
Yes, we did see lepers. No, we were not scared. Leprosy does not jump on you. We saw people with beautiful smiles, who were obviously happy to see people who care enough to go visit them. I can’t wait to bring over a group of people interested in volunteering for a set period of time. This day was a memorable one!
Part 2 coming very soon... Stay tuned!
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