Archive for the ‘It's the people’ Category

It’s the people

This week, I spent the day in Tam Ky, Vietnam volunteering at orphanages with Global Volunteer Network. Currently, six volunteers from Australia, Scotland, Malaysia and the United States live in a four-bedroom house. The program is very well organized and they have a cook, driver, site coordinator and regional coordinator. The day I was there a visiting Physical Therapist was spending his one week/month in Tam Ky. They also had two local interns from a neighboring University. I’m sure the reason why it’s so well resourced is if you just visit this place your heart cracks wide open and you just want to help.

As soon as our van pulled up to the orphanage, the children streamed out of the building and ran up to hug us. We brought them their morning bananas and they were screaming with joy. There are 45 children at this orphanage ranging from infants to 11 year old children. I spent most of the morning in the infant room, and as soon as I walked into the room they all turned their gaze on me. Imagine ten pairs of adorable eyes just staring at you, waiting for you to pick them up and love them?!? I was totally hooked. Since I was the new untrained volunteer, I just held them, fed them and changed diapers, while other volunteers were helping to massage babies, exercise, potty train, and organize the supply run. I don’t think I’ve ever been around this many babies before, and it was just astounding to me that they could immediately trust me, especially given their circumstances. Children are there for many reasons – teenage mothers that aren’t ready to parent, very poor parents that can’t afford a child, or their parents died (many children became orphans from the typhoons). Later, we went to another orphanage for older children, and I (tried) to help teach English to older students. They were a bit rowdy and the other volunteer was great at managing their behavior issues. By the end of the day, I was totally exhausted. And although I felt like I helped contribute, it was really just temporary. Of course, the children need love and attention and that is important. But I will be thinking about how to do something more sustainable and impactful when I return (open to ideas!).

It started raining in Hoi An, so I headed south and am in Saigon tonight. Tomorrow, I go on a three day tour of the Mekong Delta, including homestays with local families which I’ve been wanting to do for the entire trip. Then I’ll get some beach time at Phu Quoc Island before returning to Saigon. I’m flying back to Seattle on January 22 and will be in Seattle for about six weeks before returning to Vietnam. Should I have ANOTHER going away party? Just kidding, but I will have a potluck (I’m on a budget people) with all my travel photos and we can all swap travel stories.

Attached are a few photos of the wonderful people I’ve encountered over the past week. The people are the absolute highlight of this trip, from the locals to hotel staff to expats to travellers. The first photo is the old woman on the beach in Hoi An that kept coming back to me to sell me snacks. I kept thinking she could be my grandmother, working so hard to make just a few dollars a day. So many tourists are cynical in Vietnam and wary of anyone selling anything, but I was delighted this woman was willing to cut me a fresh mango on the beach. The other photos are from the orphanage. You’re not supposed to have favorites, but I was immediately taken with Quynh and wanted to take her home with me!

I kept buying things from this elderly woman at the beach (Cua Dai) in Hoi An, Vietnam. She could be my grandmother and cut me fresh mango, plied me with oreos and sweet treats.
My heart immediately opened up to these babies at an orphanage in Tam Ky, Vietnam.

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