Even though this little tyke was abandoned by her parents, she has had the good luck of being taken in by the Buddhist nuns, who run the Duc Son Orphanage in Hue.
For twenty five years the nuns here have been creating a loving home for abandoned children. The facility is clean and well organized. The children of school age go to the local school. There is a list of all the students in the main hall, and Thich Nu Minh Tu and the 25 nuns in this pagoda are particularly proud of all the Duc Son kids who have gone on to university. At this time there are 200 children in their care.
On this visit, we saw a little bit more of the orphanage than we have done on previous visits and were delighted to see that the children with disabilities are taught right there at Duc Son. The two small classes, with about six kids in each , were being taught by lay teachers. We learned also that in addition to the nuns there is a corps of "mothers", lay women who come to take care of the babies. There is no shortage of hugs!
In an effort to subsidize their work, the nuns have built a very nice dining hall on the property, where they hope that visiting groups will eat a vegetarian meal for $4.00 US. It is a pleasant space and we are hopeful that the idea will catch on with philanthropic travellers.
As we were about to leave, a troup of primary school age kids returned to the pagoda for lunch. They filed in quietly, offering a prayer of greeting to Minh Tu, smiling broadly when they saw us and giving us a big "hello".
It is hard to leave Duc Son and harder yet not to vow to make a special effort on our return to Canada, to add to the small donation that we left for their food program. The budget is 30 cents a day per child for food, $60 a day for the 200 kids whose lives and fates have been altered by these beautiful nuns.