THE SUMMER 2012 TOUR TO THE ORPHANAGES
By Aileen Nguyen
Another year has passed. I packed my bags and came back to Vietnam on another mission to visit the orphanages. Because of my new job, I scheduled this trip later in the year as compared to the last one. The weather in June is quite hot and humid in Vietnam, but I was so ready as ever.
Danang Red Cross-Orphan Center:
From the guidance of my friends in Vietnam, I paid my first visit to “Danang Red Cross Association-The Orphan Center.” This center used to be supported by the American Adoption Agencies. As the relationship between the government of U.S. and Vietnam deteriorated on the adoption issues, this center was mostly abandoned by the agencies and left with a small funding from the Red Cross.
The children at this center are mostly severely handicapped and/or affected by illnesses and therefore were left unwanted by potential adopted parents. Some children are in their teenage years yet have never left their crib. The child in this below picture is ten years-old. He is blind and could not walk. He has a certain illness that causes his stomach to be really big, but his legs are bared bone. He is as big as a four year-old child.
There are thirteen children that are bedridden like this child. The director told me that some were affected by Agent Orange. I visited each of the children, and thought of my granddaughter back home. I thought of all of the love and attention that she receives every day and felt sad for the children. Most people will not know his name or remember his face. He is not a cute, chubby, bubbly, or talkative and not a baby anymore. What is the chance for him to be touched, loved, and hugged by an adoptive parents or anyone? In fact, when I slightly touched his hand (which was wrapped in a piece of cloth, because he constantly scratched his eyes with it), he seemed to be scared until I spoke to him softly.
The child at the bottom in the below picture is seven years-old. Her head is abnormally big because of a rare neurological disease. The child next to her is four years-old. She also suffers a neurological disease that caused her body to bend like a shrimp.
The Director told me that she was left at the hospital where she was born. Her parents, who live in the countryside, used to come and visited her when she was little. They stopped coming a few years ago. May be they have other children and have gone on with their life. Or may be they could not afford the visits anymore. Whatever the reasons, the child did not choose to be born and abandoned this way. Again, I thought of my grandchild, and my heart sank.
To the right is a happy child, though. I could not hold my tears when I saw her smiling face.
There are seven other children with Down syndrome. One girl, who was born with one ear missing and has no speech. She kept following me everywhere and wanted to be hugged. Her face was slightly defected, but she kept smiling. She would not let go of my hands when I was leaving.
We brought milk, treats, foods, and supplies of approximately VDN$9,000,000 or US$430 for The Orphan Center. The Director of the Center was very appreciative of our help. This was our second time helping the center. My friends brought supplies and treats on behalf of ATG in March.
Uu Dam (Hue)
My friend and I left Danang for Hue around 5 am the next day to avoid the heat. We contacted PT, the nun who is the director of the Center and met up with her and the older children at Co-op Mart to shop for the foods and supplies for the center. After spent almost two hours at the market, we drove the car filled with foods and supplies back to Uu Dam.
The center has finished with the library and filled it up with the books purchased with the fund from ATG last year. The center still has around forty children. I am happy to see the baby boy who was only eight months when I first met him. He is now a healthy five-year old boy.
I also learned that the center now has 4 children who have completed high school and will compete for entrance to University this year. XT and TX, the twin girls, are now in their second year in University. They go to the University during the day and come back to the center to live and be the big sisters for the younger children. The center now has 3 younger children ages 4, 3, and 2 years-old. Besides food and supplies, we have helped Uu Dam with funds for tuition and books. Every year when I come back, I look forward to see the progress that the center has made and the impact of our help. I was so happy that I was able to see the baby boy who was eight months and the twins, the youngest and oldest children of the center when I first met them. They represent the progress and the impact that ATG has made to this orphanage. I felt encouraged and joyful when I looked at the boy’s eyes. PT really does a good job of raising these children.
We bought foods, treats, and supplies for Uu Dam in a total of VND$9,861,700 or USD$473. We also gave the cooks and other poor helpers of the center USD$50 to encourage them to continue to help PT and the children.
Center for Disabled Children Hoa Khanh
We visited this center in the past. Like the Red Cross Orphan center, this one used to be sponsored by the American adoption agencies. Once the adoption from America stopped, so was the funding. The center has several severely handicapped children (about 30) and a few mentally challenged young adults who need a lot of support on their daily lives. The center heavily relies on assistance from volunteers and private donors/charitable foundations like us. Most of the children without disabilities were able to be adopted by foreign and Vietnamese parents. However, the children with severe disabilities were not adopted by anyone. In fact, the nuns told me that some of the physically challenged children had parents to begin with, but they were ultimately abandoned by their own parents for lack of economical means.
These two children, though alert at times, were born without the ability to walk.
This one could not either.
This seventeen year-old boy, who has been in the center since he was seven, has severe epilepsy.
So does this one…
Too many for me to remember their names….
This baby was born blind and without one hand.
Will he ever be able to see and feel the touch of a loving parent?
We spent VND$15,106,000 ($725) on food and supplies for this center.
Thanh Tam Center for Disabled Children
This place has about 70 children, half of which came from poor families, but they get to go home to their parents at night. Most of the children were born without the ability to hear or speak, thus the school teaches them sign language. Some children were born with Down Syndrome.
For some reason, Danang has many children who were born with neurological birth defects. These children cannot walk. Some have severe epilepsy problems. Some also could not even talk or hear. Their families were not well-to-do to begin with, ultimately forced to abandon the children to the center because they could no longer afford the costs to care for the children. The center, headed by a Catholic nun, aims at providing them with special education that enable these children to follow academic programs as much as they can. However, most of the children who stay in the center were not able to pass the middle school or high school graduating exam, thus the center has been looking for the alternative vocational careers so that these children may be able to find the way to make their own living once they reach adult age. The center received some funding from the Catholic Diocese. However, because of the special needs for these children, the center has to hire a lot of caregivers to look after them. Thus, our support came in handy.
We purchased VND$10, 233,000 (USD$491) of foods and supplies for the center.
I contacted the Danang center for the Street children and learned that the children were allowed to visit with their relatives during the second and third week of June, thus we could not visit with them. Since I have to go back to the US, I left USD$300 for my friends to purchase foods and supplies for these children.
On the long flight back to Dallas, I remember the voice of the child that sat next to me on the last trip to Vietnam who asked her Mom what did an orphan look like. I could not help but felt very sad that most of the orphans I saw on this trip could not function normally like the children of Uu Dam or Son Ca orphanages. Being without parents and/or without the appropriate economic means are difficult enough for anyone. However, the orphans with disabilities will have even lesser chance to be loved and cared for by the adopted parents or other guardians. They will have a lot less chance to have an independent lifestyle as they become adults. Their journeys in life will be difficult, if not short. I am glad that ATG could lend a hand to provide them with the much needed support on their journeys. We hope to be there along the way to ease their pains. I am also very glad to have friends in Vietnam likes HP to help me with transportations and deliveries of the goods to the orphanages on this trip.
To support ATG’s orphanage aid program and make a donation, visit our Donate Page.