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The Orphanage Experience The Orphanage Exeperience is a non profit initiative, to take fun, educational & sustainable activities vital for a childs development to children in orphanages across the world. 2005 sees the Orphanage Experience off to Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand.

Phouc Phouc

VIETNAM | Thursday, 12 January 2006 | Views [1050] | Comments [3]

'Nothing to see here, doing to do', is what the Lonely Planet describes Quang Ngai the beautiful city in central Vietnam as. Due to most travelers being by the book, as in the bible book LP, Quang Ngai remains to this day as a path off the tourist trail - Thank God. Tourists however miss out on the insatiable charm and welcome that we got in this place with nothing to see or do.


Quang Ngai is about 200km south of Da Nang, just off the coast and can lay claim to being right in the middle of the action during the war, notably the worst massacre of women and civilians by American troops at My Son.


Lack of tourist attractions aside, the Quang Ngai Social Protection Centre was the draw card for us and the 75 amazing kids that lived there.


After a hot couple of weeks in Cambodia, arrival in Quang Ngai was a freezing cold shock to the system, it was COLD. Most of my clothes came out, fleece, thermals, (X2), socks, hats, and jackets - and that was just for sleeping. I was cold and I am from New Zealand, not the most tropical country on the planet, but damn the Vietnamese must be really feeling this cold snap... and they were.


Turning up at the orphanage on an icy Vietnamese morning, powered only by a thick Vietnamese coffee laced with condensed milk (which my thighs are loving!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) we were greeted by a team of incredible kids. The orphanage is home to 75 children without families and  3 are severely mentally and physically disabled due to the Agent Orange used by the Americans in the war.


I got in touch with the orphanage through my work at Global Volunteer Network, as it is one of the centers were we send volunteers, so Deirdre from Ireland and Nick from Sweden gave us a fab welcome, and let us into their Vietnamese life for Christmas.


We slipped into routine with the volunteers, were they split their days between lessons at the orphanage and at an English language centre for adults. At the orphanage we spent time with the kids when they weren’t at school, hanging out, English lessons, arts and crafts and of course a spot of soccer.


The volunteers dedicate a lot of time to the 3 disabled children in the orphanage, who tend to fall between the cracks for care. Loi the oldest, is a 14 year old girl, her lack of hair and words is made up by her infectious smile and laugh. The other 2 boys both aptly named Phouc  - Vietnamese for happy. Big Phouc is 11 and loves movement and is usually found either at the gate as a self appointed security guard or on the potty where he sits for a few hours each morning singing twinkle twinkle little star - well his version. Little Phouc is 4 and has water on the brain, is blind and cannot walk or talk. Phoucs day, week and life sees him lying on a bed with no mattress, with only interaction and movement from volunteers and of course Loi.


I have had moments in my life, some might call me romantic and clichéd but watching Loi and Phouc was one of these moments. I see people all the time really shit people, but Loi holding Phouc in her arms and rocking and kissing him, was a moment of TRUE love and humanity forever framed in my mind. The 3 share a room, - cum dungeon/cave, days and nights are spent in here, no mattress or blankets as they wet the bed, nothing to do, no stimulation, nothing.


The other 70 odd kids are equally amazing and I have never met a bunch of boys who just want a cuddle. My hair being long and blonde and full of beads and bits proved to be a big hit along with my camera which they wanted to be on the taking end of.


Our visit at the orphanage coincided with good old Father C coming down your chimneys, so we thought we would bring a bit of that to Vietnam. As I have already said but will say again it was COLD in Quang Ngai, I had thermals but what about the kids?? I hear you asking???  Some had jumpers, and long pants but not all, and most were well past it and around elbows and knees. Getting the wee poppets warm was obviously our first and immediate priority. So to the market, to the market to buy a fat pig we went and decked out all in hats, socks, gloves and polar fleece. The shipment arrived magically at the volunteer house on Christmas morning and in the afternoon we rocked down to deliver the threads with lollies and balloons. The kids where on there best behavior and Lois face when we gave her an extra spesh Jumper and hat was Christmases all at once for me.


So folks that donated to the OE, you gave me the best Christmas present ever, the faces of these fab kids, as it was your money that paid for the insulation ensembles for the nippers. THANK YOU !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Other notable bits from the week was the news that little Phouc is off to Hue to spend at least 3 months having physical therapy, this made possible to the wonderful Irish lass Deirdre who through her fundraising can make a HUGE difference in his quality of life.  Long term I would like to see this therapy continued for Phouc and also for Loi and Big Phouc, as how are we meant to explain especially to Loi that her Phouc - her Happiness is gone. Loi is an untapped resource, someone just needs to get into her brain, as she knows what is going on and is a champion snap player.


As you will see from one of the photos (apologies for not being in order or captioned as I am having issues) there is a photo of Loi and Phouc in their room with big posters in the background, which are the result of our artiste -ish skills. Management wouldn’t let us paint the room possibly due to an often manic look in my eyes, so we  put paint to paper. The room now has 6 massive bright posters, and already the stimulation is obvious - so simple but so effective.  


I could write forever about my week here, but it would still not do it justice. If you want to hear stories about humanity, love and humility where there is what we would say nothing, I will tell you about the kids there who smile more than most of the people I know, and yet they really are in a situation where they have little to smile about.


If you want to donate to the Quang Ngai Social Protection Centre please contact me.  



Tags: People



What an awesome way to spend the holiday. Good to see fundraising come to fruition, eh! Just got back from Uganda with a similar experience. It's great to hear that the kids got some warmth for Christmas. Keep up the awesome work. =)

  Charisse Jan 25, 2006 7:36 AM


hi we are visiting vietnam dec/jan 05/06 looking to make contact and spend 2 or 3 day in an orphanage with the view of returning in 18 months. if we could make contact on this trip we could try to raise some dollars in australia until we do our extended trip in 2008
do you have anyone we can contact before we head off in dec.
thanks annie

  annie Jun 25, 2006 8:02 PM


oh my gosh i went there!
i went to that exact orphanage in 2005!
im only 14 though so i went with my mum and i stayed for 2 weeks but she stayed for 9 weeks.
i loved that place so much. it literally changed my life.
the reason i found this site is because i want to start a charity type thing where kids and teenagers in australia fill boxes up with useful things and raise money and ship them off to orphanages.
hmmmm its going to be difficult but my friends and i are creative and driven so i think we might be able to do it. :)

  charlotte Jan 28, 2007 4:31 AM

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