I was looking forward to sharing Anna’s world. I was looking forward to finding out what she found so enchanting about the kids in Vietnam. What was it that I was going to experience that would be any different to reading her Blog or watching a story on the news about poverty in some far-flung developing country. I have seen the same videos that most of Anna’s friends have seen on Facebook. The ones where the kids start pouring out of the orphanage, yelling out “ANNA ANNA ANNA” mobbing her, like a rock star trying to get from the airport to her hotel. I saw those videos and was happy for Anna, happy for the kids she was helping and happy someone, other than me, was doing something that I could easily support with a few dollars.
After travelling half of Vietnam, we arrived. The reality of arriving at Baby Orphanage is an unbelievable assault on the senses. Anna told me that the kids were good but if they find my iPhone in my pocket, they will become obsessed and want to play with it all day, better to hide it. So as we walked in they mauled me. Hundreds of kids all yelling hello at the same time in jovial, ecstatic voices, full of joy, even though the situation there is terrible; they have nothing and they have nobody. I was overwhelmed. I went outside and I burst into tears. Like a tropical monsoon, the tears flooded out for about 5 minutes, and then I was fine. I said under my breath “thanks mum, thanks for loving me” and I went back inside.
One family has three boys who are both Hemophiliac’s, the closest hospital is eight hours away. The mother in this family is in remission from Breast Cancer and one of the sons unfortunately passed away when he was eight years old. This family has a daughter, she is seventeen and topping her class. Anna pays her school fees. When we visited the family, the mother showed us the report card of her daughter from school. She is doing so well, the mother is so happy.
The other story I will relate about Tien Phuoc is about the day we delivered a cow. A cow can provide an income for the family. There is a local bull that is taken around to each cow and he services them, then the calves are sold.
They don't have WH&S, they don’t have insurance schemes, they don’t really have anything there. So, she was left alone suddenly, with four young children.
The immediate response here in the Developed Rich World is “I can’t afford to have four children in Australia! Why should I feel sorry and help her? She should have planned it out and waited till she could afford them first!” I understand the aetiology of such hostile analyses. Our lives here in Sydney, or in other Developed countries aren't all Strawberry Fields, our lives aren't perfect here, we are not all millionaires and many of us don’t have the luxury to pop out four kids on a labourers salary, so why should we help her?! However, we also have endless choices here and often assuage our desire for four kids because we crave other things from our lives. We have education here, we have contraception here, we have choices, broad, tall, endless, ceaseless choices here - whether or not you believe and experience the phenomena of incredible choice here in Australia: it is true. In a rural Vietnamese village, it is not.
deliver a cow to a recently widowed mother of four in the darkest corner of the most remote village in a country that has been ravaged by colonisers, murderers and Americans. That is why she trembled. Because for some reason, something in the universe made all this happen. That is why the rays of light beam down with biblical reverence. It is because she felt touched by something bigger than all of us.