Wednesday, September 19, 2012

“A year from now you will wish you had started today"


I hope everyone is faring well and enjoying life. Things are plodding along here - no two days are ever the same being here! Sometimes I cannot believe I have been here for 6 months already! Attached is a link to a summary video I have put together about my last 6 months here.... I hope you like it.

The children have been spoilt this last month - we have had a youth tour come and they have spent a lot of money on them, buying them everything they need for the new school year which begins in Sept. Karaoke, pool outings, ice cream, sinh to (fruit/veggie drink), you name it, they have received!

I went to a Local Government meeting recently - 4 hours, 150 Vietnamese Officials and 4 westerners that stood out! They had the kindness to translate all the speeches befroe hand into English so thank goodness I could read along as they spoke so I knew what was going on. The basis of the meeting was to talk about relationships with Internatioanl NGO's and to discuss projects they have coming up  for the next 12 months that they need support with.
I was saddened to read that in this province ALONE, there are 8,000 orphans and 65,000 children at risk and in vulnerable positions. I hate to think what the total number is for Vietnam in its entirety. 
I did manage to meet the other Westerners and have a good chat about what they are up to, as well as pick up some other projects I was interested in. Some of the poorer communities, up in the mountains and the ethnic minorities near the border of Laos seem to be struggling. One project was to build outhouses (toilets) for one village that have none at all and so sanitation and hygiene there are non existent. To build 34 outhouses, it would cost $13,000. A preschool was asking for a playground; they would need $3000.
I aim to go out and visit some of these districts and communities in the next coming months, would be very interesting me thinks!

Back at the orphanage, the girls were in cleaning mode. I stood in the corridor, out of sight, watching them all through the bars. I got a little misty eyed watching the girls clean out their own individual drawer with so much love and pride. Most of them had junk in there. Bits of thread, an old marble, a top from a jar, some old wrapping paper, a paper with some stickers on it, broken bits and bobs..... yet, the way they arranged and cleaned and put things back carefully and in a neat order touched me. This was their only worldly possessions. It didn't seem to matter what they were, just the fact that these items were theirs to call their own...

I have somehow acquired the role of a nurse recently. This sticky humidity heat has attacked many children with heat rashes. I have also noticed an increase in scabs, cuts, infected bites and ulcers. Armed with my little green first aid kit under my arm, I make the rounds and inspect little hands and feet. This all came about when I saw one child with autism hit another very hard and made his lip and gum bleed everywhere. I called the nurse, showed her and she just smiled at me and walked away and did nothing. The second child I saw had a mosquito bite that was weeping and there were ants in it. I showed her again so she can disinfect it and treat it, and when I returned the next day, nothing had be done about it. Both nurses at both placements seem to sit in their office and watch the children through the window. When I confronted one of them with a little boy whose entire toe nail was ripped off and it was infected, did not seem to notice, know when it happened or did anything about it, despite the children telling me that they showed her days ago. So I have taken to bringing my own box of creams, swabs, band aids etc.
Both Peace Village and Tam Ky Orphanage children come up to me when they see me with my green box and start showing me all their wounds, cuts and scrapes. Some of the 4 year olds, show me cuts that have nearly healed and want some cream or a band aid on it. Children and band aids - I guess the obsession is a universal phenomenon!

Last week, we did some craft with the children and handed out 6 pairs of scissors. Only 4 came back. Uh oh. Here we go. We had all the children seated to have fruit and I asked where the scissors had gone to. They kept saying no, no, no more. I told them, until the scissors came back, I would not be handing out fruit. Within a minute, one pair magically appeared. Still missing one pair of scissors. Waiting and waiting.....60 pairs of eyes on me, some pleading with palms up to hand them a piece of fruit. I would not falter. As much as it pains me to use fruit, food and outings as a means of getting them to understand, it is the only way they respond! I am sure the other new volunteers that joined me that week, were thinking that I really was the wicked witch. The 6th pair did not surface and so I told them that I would give them one more chance; I did not care who took them, but I needed them back. The scissors were not theirs to take. Taking them from me without asking to borrow or have them was stealing. They cannot do that when they wanted something. If they did that out in the real word they would go to jail. So, I explained I would take the fruit home and return to the orphanage in the afternoon, where I would like to have my scissors returned. If I get them back, then I will hand out the fruit.
Goodness me, the commotion. The older ones were yelling at the younger ones to return them. I went and locked up the fruit and then got in our car to leave. As I was about to close the door, I heard many scurrying feet and voices yelling "Anna, Anna, Anna". The scissors were returned.
So, I thanked them and then told them they can sit down again and I will get the fruit.
All this for a pair of scissors? I was asked by the new volunteer. Yes. Because if I let them get away with this, then next week it will be something else and something else and then bigger items and it will not end. How else can you teach them that it is not acceptable in here, and it is certainly not acceptable out there in the community.

Must be off, but I leave with you some things I have learnt recently:
* Never assume that Vietnamese super glue which is sold at the fish mongers is the same as the crappy one from the $2 store. It actually works and the missing skin from my pointer finger is living proof!
* Vietnam starts the age of a baby from conception, so technically, they believe they are 1  when they are born. This confused me so much! I met a family who told me their baby was 4 months old.... I bought a present for them and went over to meet little bub, only to realise they meant 4 months in utero!
* Goddess of mercy - a goddess that protects those traveling. Nearly every car/bus you go on here has one super glued to the dashboard. I am told that if the taxi/bus I enter does not have one, to not enter or travel with them! Apparently, statistics have shown that people in car accidents in Vietnam do not have a statue of her in their vehicle.
* If we meet in this life it is because we knew each other in some capacity in a past life.

Till next time,

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