With a population of 1,4 million, Da Nang is a coastal city in central Vietnam known for its sandy beaches and history as a French colonial port. The local population is very proud of the infrastructure of the city.
It is always a pleasure to go back to my favorite hotel, the Sofia Boutique Hotel. Clean and affordable, this establishment is renowned for the friendliness of its staff who is always making everything they can to make you feel at home. My friend Vivian, who is the manager, is a strong collaborator of mine and is my way in to go visit people in the community and in the local hospitals.
After securing a motorbike for the duration of our stay, we went to purchase notebooks, pencils and milk to bring over to 20 children in a local hospital cancer ward, along with toothpaste, toothbrushes and pain medication brought over from Canada.
It took a bit of effort and negotiation to have access to the cancer ward... and once we got there, we realized there were only 7 children left: some had been discharged, while others sadly did not make it. The children who are still there were happy to receive their little care package.
Mai and I left the hospital feeling somewhat defeated: having the best intentions in the world is not enough. It takes a lot of guts and persuasion to do what we do. You need to believe in what you do to find the strength to cross the roadblocks that constantly seem to be in your way.
The next day saw us making our way to the Red Cross Vocational centre where we purchased our incense sticks last December. We placed an order for 50 kg of rice to be delivered on site and got there at the same time as the delivery guy. We sat with the director of the centre and his assistant and went over what Twins for Hope does and how we have been operating. The director gave us a tour of the facilities and was interested by our plans of bringing over Canadian professionals from different fields. Véronique (chair of the Board) and myself also have the intention of providing information on fertility awareness to the various centres we support, and Red Cross Danang showed interest in our project.
Sixty youth with disabilities stay at the centre where they learn to make embroidery, purses, incense, silk flowers and printing. Twins for Hope will import in Canada some of their beautiful purses to sell for fundraising purposes.
After an uplifting visit of the Red Cross Vocational Centre in Da Nang we made our way back to HCMC on June 30 by plane.
With only a few days left until my return back to Canada, Mai and I got very busy meeting with partners who share the same goals. It's always nice to share experience and benefit from each other.
One of the centres we support employs youngsters with disabilities. They sew different kind of products including canvas bags of all shapes. A way for us to fundraise and generate money is to sell bags to suit the needs of business in Canada. A Kingston local bakery ordered from us reusable baguette bags and we have several more orders being processed as we speak. We take great pride in ensuring our clients are satisfied with a quality handmade product delivered by people who otherwise would have nowhere to go if it wasn't from this centre.
We purchased more pop up greeting cards as they have been very successful and we anticipate a big demand with the Holiday season approaching.
While in Saigon, we also paid a visit to our good old friend Papa at Ca May Man and brought over provisions of food and other necessities. For those of you who are new, Papa is a Japanese man who lives in Saigon. He has taken under his wings youngsters who suffer from various disabilities and he teaches them how to work, while providing them with 3 meals a day and a safe place to sleep. They make paper mâché Lucky Fish and used to mainly ship them out to Japan to be sold in pagodas. For technical reasons with exportation, it has been increasingly difficult for them to fulfill orders to be shipped abroad. Papa's mission truly touches me. There is something about this man that just makes you feel like helping them out is the right thing to do. We purchased 1000 Lucky Fish from them in December 2016 and we still have a few hundreds to sell. Of course, all profits go back to help our people in Vietnam.
Our last work day in Saigon saw us visit a new centre, the Gia Dinh School where 80 children with Down Syndrome and autism go every morning to learn the basics to function in daily life. Partly funded by the adjacent catholic parish, the school however functions at a deficit and needs support. We had a good conversation with the assistant director who asked if we could provide help in acquiring a PA system and craft supplies. The children learn how to make crafts the school can sell to fundraise. Twins for Hope is planning on purchasing various goods we will offer in the near future.
I came back on July 4th, via Seoul. This mission was very productive and both Mai and myself feel we made giant steps in securing our relationships with our centres and our partners in Vietnam.
We have launched a gofundme Back to School campaign until mid-September. Our goal is $3000 which we intend to split between 3 centres to provide school supplies and pay for tuition for children reaching higher levels.
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