Sunday, October 22, 2017

Tugging at the Heart Strings

Every time we are able to deliver gifts, donated by dear friends, family, neighbours, colleagues and fellow travellers, we are again moved by their generosity, love and trust. We also now have a team of Vietnamese who are helpful with translating and guidance.

An event last week was typical of the astonishing teamwork. We attended a meeting at Reaching Out,  at the arts and crafts shop as well as the tea house. Members of USAID and a delegation of the Asia Pacific Subcommittee of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee visited as part of a Southeast Asia fact-finding trip.

As is often the case, the agenda was not exactly clear, but the RO team were ready and welcomed this group of VIP's with their usual aplomb. We had thought that they were simply seeking clarity about the social enterprise model which has been the foundation of RO's success and sustainability...a way for the disabled to learn marketable skills and earn a living in a society where advances on building access for the disabled are limited. But they concentrated instead on how they might influence the Vietnamese government. Although the laws are on the books they are far from being universally implemented. This was a good thing.

Early evening tea was served in the Tea House garden; a peaceful place to answer their questions.As always, time was short, there were too many questions and too many "spokespersons" but I believe that some seeds of awareness were planted in the minds and hearts of this delegation.

Another occasion last week on behalf of TOP, Tours of Peace, Vietnam Veterans tugged at the strings of our hearts. TOP has supported the Quang Nam home for the Aged for many years and it was our pleasure to deliver a good supply of medications to the centre for TOP. With the help of Vu Duc Anh in Saigon, who acquired and shipped the medicine to Hoi An, we delivered two huge cartons of necessary medicines. The Director was delighted.

Once again, our Grandson Sesame was along to help with translation. He has become a staunch supporter of our work and is growing into quite a statesman.

Sesame's presence allows us to have more in-depth conversations with our hosts and we are deepening the relationships that we have with them and the residents of this institution. Here we are getting to know Trung, a very caring young nurse. I also had a nice chat with my friend Huynh pictured above.

We spent time talking about our friend Ut who died last year at age 61 of liver cancer. She was a double amputee, having stepped on a landmine when she was 14 years old. Surprisingly we were invited to go to visit her graveside. This we did this morning, guided by Ut's granddaughter.

Bruce proudly wore his TOP cap as he paid homage to this brave lady. You may remember that during Ut's last painful months we, once again with Anh's help, were able to provide Ut with medicine to make her more comfortable. TOP trip participants loved UT and she, them.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Our Eleventh Journey of the Heart

In 11 years the city of Hoi An has grown beyond our wildest imaginings, with new hotels, neighbourhoods, roads, and eateries, springing up all over. Traffic is more frenzied, from haphazard and noisy, to simply crazy. But at her heart, she is the same town of lanterns, fishing boats, ancient buildings and wonderful food. There is evidence of more wealth but surprisingly little development in the way of social services. Poverty has not abated. Farmers, fishers, day labourers and villagers are struggling more than ever. And so we have once again rolled up our sleeves and begun to seek out ways to alleviate some of the pain of that poverty.  We could not do this without the generous funds given to us for our work, by friends, family and neighbours.

Our first stop, as always, was to Reaching Out, both the Arts and Crafts Shop and the Tea House. Each enterprise won an Award of Excellence from Trip Advisor for the past year. I was able to order the flags and brought them in my suitcase. Here you see me helping the staff at the Tea House hang their banner. They are all lovely young women and now manage the tea house and serve with silent elegance. Their speech and hearing impairments are no obstacle. I don't know who is more proud of their achievements, me, the management team or they themselves. It was quite a celebration!

Once again we had the distinct privilege of visiting the Kianh Foundation to deliver funds donated by
Salt Springers. The Kianh Foundation is a day school for disabled children. This well run, happy place has made miraculous progress, through therapy and education, enabling these kids to develop to their fullest potential. One young boy, now 10 years old, joined the day program at the age of 3. He could not sit up at that time. As we chatted on the breezeway, he came scooting by with the assistance of a walker, evidence of his determination and the dedication of his therapists. Families are encouraged to follow routines and therapies practiced at the centre.

We count ourselves very lucky to be able to visit, as the Foundation is staunchly protective of the children's privacy and ask that people interested in their work, research their website. Because we know the Director personally and work with other organizations dedicated to providing skills training for the disabled, we were invited for a quick visit during their Friday afternoon playtime and order a refreshing beverage at the small cafe run by the older kids.

The Kianh Foundation has the only wheelchair customization capability in the region and is able to adapt wheelchairs to tiny bodies, which can be adjusted as the child grows.

Thanks again friends, family and neighbours for contributing precious funds which make the lives of these severely disabled children more comfortable and give hope to their families.