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Weight lifting, Vietnam style

VIETNAM | Tuesday, 5 July 2011 | Views [1639] | Comments [1]

Date: 5 July Weather: stupid hot, 39degrees? Soundtrack: Aukistra ;) 

I have been procrastinating for the last hour about writing this because I really want to do this part justice. 

Today we visited the centre for disabled children where we will be working. Let me start by describing it. From the outside it looks like a run down shed that your folks converted into a pool room, 50 years ago. 

There are three classes and the rooms are smaller then your bedroom. Much smaller. No windows, however there is air-conditioning, thank goodness. There is a small courtyard, no grass and little shade. 

One of the classes is for the severely disabled. Some can't even walk. They don't have mats or beds to lay on, they have a rug, on top of some hard tiles. It's completely heart breaking. There are about 4/5 severely disabled children and the other two classes have 10 - 20 kids each. From what I can see, mostly they have small physical disabilities but mostly learning, down syndrome, autism, etc. 

We only met the teachers and said a quick hello to the kids and tomorrow we will start full time. 

This afternoon however, we took a trip to the orphanage that is two kilometres from 'Peace House', the place where we live. It is comparatively beautiful to the small dilapidated shed that our project is at. Granted there are 120 children here, but it is big. Large rooms, a massive playground, grass, soccer nets, lots of space, the kinds of things kids need. 

These kids have a range of disabilities, birth defects from agent orange, to down syndrome and some others that I am not sure of. 

We enter the 'Friendship Village' and the first to meet us are the children. They are excited and are instantly wanting our affection. We get lead off by the hand to more children and they are all smiles. 

One small girl has green nail polish on her tiny nails and half of it is in her mouth, and she is adorable. 

We spend some time and eventually we see some staff but it is immediately apparent to us how under resourced they are. 

We met this boy, although very hard to tell his age, who has down syndrome and he grabs Keegan, the biggest of the group and drags him over to where he has a bar with two chunks of concrete attached to each end, and he starts lifting his weights up and over his head, photo attached. He then makes us each take turns. We take photo's of him and he is so proud of himself. Giving us a big thumbs up. It's incredible how these kids communicate with us. 

It was extremely sweet. So.. here comes the sad part: 

I walk inside to help a staff member carry food. She speaks no english and all I can say in my terrible vietnamese is "hello my name is stacey", and even worse "nice to meet you". 

This boy, lets say 12 yrs old is sitting on the floor and he grabs my hand. He tries to pull me with some strength I must say, to the ground. So I sit. And it breaks my heart. Here I had to really fight the tears. He can't speak, he doesn't respond to his name and he can't feed himself. 

The lady shows me how to feed him, and she really is force feeding him. I was taking my time and it made me very uncomfortable that she was forcing more food into his mouth before he had finished the last mouthful. It dawned on my walk home, that this carer does not have enough time to spend one hour feeding one child. There are so severely under resourced they simply cannot give the time required to each child. Often the other children are feeding each other. I do manage to get a smile out of Minh by tickling around his neck and stroking his head. He can't really smile with his mouth, but his eyes are distinctly smiling. 

One the walk home we were all fairly sombre, we were all very touched. For me I was instantly grounded. On the way to the orphanage, I was bitching at the trucks and their extremely loud horns and unnecessary use of them while they are a metre behind you, it seriously scares this crap out of you, and on the way home it just didn't matter. 

Its incredible how interactions can change our mood. Keegan is researching NGO's as part of his project and looking at their funding etc. He told me that it costs a mere $3000 to fund 'Friendship Village' for a whole year. 120 kids, $3000. I wonder what they could do with double that amount? 

The bowl of food that I was feeding to the 12 yr old boy, Minh, consisted of rice, chicken stock, half a prawn (that was his favourite), half a spring role and the smallest amount of chicken. 

As a group we bought a soccer ball and were keen to play in the local village, after today I think we will be playing at the orphanage. The place is beautiful, and its amazing that these children have a place to go. The Government does not fund places like this. This has been set up by a Vietnam Veteran. 

Today I appreciated home, we have all of these things, and we don't just have them we expect them. 

Anyway, this is going to be a challenge but already it is rewarding. I am looking forward to learning off the other volunteers and hopefully we can make a some positive impact on this local community. 

Peace and love

Stace x

Tags: disabled, down syndrome, learning disabilities, orphanage, vietnam



Wow love the story Stace! What eye opener the experience is and am sure you are going to come across many more on this adventure. Glad to hear its all going well. xo

  Natalie Jul 7, 2011 2:00 PM

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