Saturday, August 1, 2015

Everything is theoretically impossible, until it is done - R. Heinlein


I sat on the plane trying to place whether last night actually happened or whether I dreamt it. Although so surreal, it definitely happened.

I am still in disbelief! I cannot begin to convey to everyone present at the trivia last night, to everyone who has donated money or items towards the children and my fundraising efforts, exactly how much that all means to me. These children mean the world to me and having you guys help me, help them, brings me to tears. 

I was expecting about 80 people to turn up at best. I was definitely not expecting 250 tickets to sell and to have to stop the booking site as we sold more tickets than the venue capacity!!!!!

A total of $12,413 was raised on my birthday for the children. Best birthday present ever.

I was running on pure adrenalin after the trivia night..... I slept for two hours and was up again at the airport ready to fly to Tam Ky to see everyone again.

I have no other words but thanks, thanks, thanks. A million times over.

Huge thank you also has to go out to Jason Kazanis- auctioneer, mc, trivia quiz master and comedian all rolled into one for hosting the night and ensuring everyone was having a grand old time. The night would not have been the same without you, Jason.

For those not present, I have copied my speech from the night below. I haven't included the photos as Mr Nhan's story and pics can also be found on my blog. ( )

Stay tuned for where the donations have gone towards!


Hello Everyone! I don’t know what to say or where to start. I am overwhelmed at the support that you have all shown for mission nampossible. I am truly grateful for you all taking the time and effort to be present tonight to help me, help the children in Vietnam. Thank you ever so much!!!!

I could just tell you stories for the rest of the night but we need to get back to the trivia so I will keep it as short as I can.

Complete stories about the children and communities I support can be found on my blog: .

I first began volunteering in Tam Ky 5 years ago.

My passport has 12 visas in it. Over the last 5 years, I have spent 20 months over there with the children. It has most certainly been a life changing experience for me.

A couple of years ago, 16 year old Jake and 13 year old Ellis raised $8000 and came to Vietnam to help out and see what it was I was doing over there.

Jake wrote the following about his experience and it encapsulates one way I've come to view things over there: “The lesson I've learnt the hard way is that you can’t help everyone. As much as you want to, as much as you think it necessary, it just isn't possible. But, it is important to take away the little things rather than spiral into depression at the hopelessness of it all – a very easy thing to do, given the enormity of the problem”.

So, I don’t think of all the misery but the beauty that remains and every time I return, driving up the dirt road to the orphanage gate, I get nervous. The butterflies are very active in my tummy as I anticipate seeing all these angelic faces…… I have been with the same children for the last 5 years and we have developed a very special bond, a relationship I could not put into words. Perhaps this short bumpy video can portray a little better than my words everyone’s excitement at our reunions. This particular video was taken on New Years Day. They were not expecting me…. It was a surprise trip….

The love I feel for these children makes me want to burst…. I feel so at peace, so at home with them….. I am fiercely protective over all of them…… when the routine, monotony and challenges of my life get me down, all I do is think of these kids and immediately things are back in perspective: that focus on what truly matters as opposed to the mundane or superficial. That’s one gift these children have given me without even realising it.

I often debate with people, ‘what is compassion comprised of?’ I think compassion is comprised of that capacity to see clearly into the nature of suffering. It is that ability to really stand strong and to recognise also that I’m not separate from this suffering. But that is not enough! Compassion should make us want to aspire. That we actually aspire to transform suffering. And if we’re so blessed, we engage in activities that transform suffering.

Ellis, who was made two trips with me to Vietnam, said to me once that even though we help in the ways we can, sometimes things can’t be helped. You have to pick your battles.

So, one battle we have engaged in has been a cow buying project for a rural town in Central Vietnam. Simply put, donations pay for a cow for a disadvantaged family and that cow has babies and provides an income for the family. A cow costs $600. They can sell a calf and earn the equivalent of 9 months’ salary with the money.

Meet Mr Nhan. He has three children aged 7,8,9.

To reach their house, “we trudge along a dirt path, narrow enough so we are forced to walk single file. It’s raining on the day we go, so, as Ellis so eloquently put it, “we have donned raincoats that may as well have been garbage bags with arm holes. To either side of us are the rice fields, ahead and behind us only the dirt, muddy path.”

The first time I met them, I remember thinking that these had to be the filthiest children I have ever seen. Dirt was present in every crack and crease of their skin. The father was no better and it took all my strength to suppress my gag reflex as I interacted with him and stood next to him for photos. His shirt was stained with sweat and dirt. My heart plummeted at their abysmal state.

His story? His wife ran out on him and the children without a backwards glance. She ran straight into the arms of another man and left the district.

He didn't see it coming at all. With a pained expression he said to me that if she wanted to leave him, he could cope with that, but she ran out and left her children too. I didn’t know where to look when he asked 'How can a mother desert her children without a pang of guilt?'

We brought these children food and new clothes for the New Year and some toys to keep them entertained and stimulated. It broke my heart a little when the girls opened the pretend play supermarket and plastic food and asked "what do we do with it?"

Mr Nhan is a softly spoken man with gentle eyes and a pained smile, a farmer who is desperately trying to keep his children with him. A rare thing, really. It's not a man's job here to raise children. Yet he fights and struggles every single day to keep his children with him and not place them in an orphanage.

The cow has been able to provide their father with an extra source of income on top of his usual occupation of a rice field farmer to help him make ends meet. The cow has already had one calf and is currently pregnant again!

On my third visit to Mr Nhan, I looked around the tiny room where they all slept together and I was thinking about how fond I was of this man who struggles all alone and silently every day to provide for his children. I asked if the mother has been in touch and has come to see her children. I got a no. There has been no contact. I was fighting back my tears and with the help of a translator, I told Mr Nhan that I thought he was a very brave and courageous man. Not many males in this community would fight so hard to keep their children together with them. I told him that I was really proud of him and acknowledged the difficult task he was faced with. I then committed further donations to pay for the three of these children to attend school. A total of $250 a year for all three of them.

We haven’t been able to ‘save’ and rescue everyone we have encountered, but we can remain confident that many people have been touched by the generosity of everyone who has donated:

A boarding school in the mountains has clean water; the sewer has been fixed so it doesn't overflow into the orphanage during wet season; three orphanages have hot water systems thanks to us; 45 orphans have annual dental and optical check ups; 16 wheelchairs and 6 walkers have helped the lives of the disabled; we have planted 100 fruit trees and a vegetable garden to provide more food for the residents; we started an incense making business with the agent orange residents; we sent 5 agent orange victims to a computer course; the 60 highly disabled residents at Peace Village have an extra carer; the babies at BO have an extra carer; donations have supported salaries of physiotherapists for the disabled; 33 children have remained in school because of the bicycles we have purchased for them; 6 families have an income from the cows we have provided; 100 orphans have fruit every day; 8 children have remained in school with our support of their tuition; 44 orphans have clean and new school uniforms every year so they do not stand out as orphans;100 orphans saw the beach for the first time and have experienced pure joy at being a child as funds have allowed me to take them swimming, the play lands, roller blading rinks, book stores and soccer matches. Every time I go I take everyone out of the orphanages and expose them to their community, we eat at restaurants and go to ear deafening karaoke. When I was living there for the year in 2012, I had 84 orphans on rotation for sleepovers at my house! They still talk about the sleepovers to this day! The list goes on and on…… Full itemised accounts of funds and details can be found on my blog if you want to know more…..

From all of this, we hope that you are able to see the world slightly differently; not as an impossibly flawed organism, but one that can be repaired if we all do our part. Sure, we can’t ‘fix’ everything everywhere, but we could sure make it better.

I know I keep returning and am on the ground over there, but really, none of the things I have achieved would have been possible without the generous support and donations from my friends and friends of friends and anyone who has stumbled across me and my mission. I only began fundraising half way through 2012; the two years before this, I did what I could on my own….. People began reading the blog and began donating funds. To date, donations raised have been just over $40,000. And after tonight, I am sure it will hit over $45,000.

I have no other words but thanks, thanks, thanks.