Friday, October 10, 2014

Amazing People Doing Amazing Things

Wednesday's visits were with two different places of worship, a Catholic church and a Buddhist pagoda. One of the many reasons I loved Children of Vietnam - they serve everyone! We started out at the Catholic church, where we visited with an amazing woman, Mother Mary Teresa. The church is located in downtown Da Nang and they support a variety of programs including a kindergarten on site. They also take orphans and they support a feeding program at a local hospital that we got to visit. The woman is just amazing. She drives this little truck full of soup mix twice a day to hospitals to feed patients and caregivers. She was the sweetest thing! She has family in Australia so she spoke a bit of English. She was such a joy to meet.

After chatting with her we went to the hospital to see the meal distribution. The hospital was packed...lots of people everywhere. Not the hospital I'm used to but the facility didn't look too bad from the outside. We didn't get to see inside because the feeding site was in a courtyard area in the middle of the structure. They rolled in the meals on a cart and Rebecca and I actually got to participate in the feeding which was pretty neat! Andrew didn't want to do it, so he took pictures (he's funny like that). We had two big pots of "soup mix" (as they call our meals) that we served until they were all gone. Mother Teresa said we were to serve 1.5 scoops but it was quite hard to follow the rule when so many people were lined up to receive food and they kept coming back for more. It's pretty amazing that she does this every day...

For lunch we went back to the hotel to do our own thing, so Andrew and I split from the group and checked out a donuts shop around the corner that had good wifi...we were needing some sweets. It was an interesting experience, having donuts in Vietnam haha. They were really good though! There was a buy 5 get one free special so of course we had to do that.  We each had a Vietnamese coffee and of course, Andrew had himself a $0.50 beer haha. After lunch we met back up to do our next visit at a Buddhist pagoda.

The temple was a bit outside the city and very colorful. We took off our shoes as we walked in and then spent some time interviewing one of the monks and the person in charge of their charity work.  The temple serves as an orphanage and supports other programs in the community including a lot of disaster response work.  We started by touring the part of the orphanage where the babies were kept. They had over 40 young children at the facility...amazing. People just drop kids off when they can't take care of them, and due to having issues with local adoptions, the pagoda has decided to keep all of the children until they are 18 rather than adopting them out. I'm not sure how they'll sustain so many, but they seem to have a lot of support from the community, We spent quite a bit of time with the children and then toured the kitchen and saw that they had prepared some meals especially for us. Unfortunately we didn't have time to eat them but we took them to go :)

The next stop was another hospital supported by Mother Teresas Catholic church. This hospital was specifically for women and children. It had a designated area for feeding but with this spot, they tend to not use all of their meals at once and end up going around to all of the rooms individually and serving patients in their bed. We stayed for a bit to watch some of the distribution and then after a while, decided we would head back to the hotel because we needed to prepare for a presentation the next day to the Children of Vietnam staff and other partners they support in the Da Nang area. Rebecca and I hung out at a local ice cream shop to get some internet and Andrew went off to his new favorite pub while we worked. After a few hours of working, we decided to call it a night and headed to bed.

The next morning we went to the Children of Vietnam office to present on Stop Hunger Now to all of the partners they work with. The presentation went really well and I think we answered a lot of questions they had. I'm excited to see how the partnership develops of the next few months in result of this visit. After the presentation we went to a really need cafe called Bread of Life. This cafe was all "English" food but it was special in that all of the staff, besides the girl at reception and the waiters, are deaf. The deaf community in Vietnam doesn't have a lot of opportunities, so it was wonderful to eat at a restaurant that was such a good cause. The food was really yummy too! We had some pizzas and burgers and ate off each others plates. The special dessert for the day was pumpkin pie so we snagged the last piece. It's not the same as in the states (probably because it's homemade, no can) but it was delicious!

After lunch we went to see a ceremony where 25 girls were being awarded scholarships by Children of Vietnam. It was an amazing experience. The girls are all from disadvantaged families and they applied to get the scholarship. They receive free schooling as well as tutoring and other supplies they need to attend school from the 6th to 9th grade. Once done with 9th grade, the girls will go to high school and eventually, college. COV is planning to support the girls all the way through as long as they keep their grades up :) The girls were so sweet receiving their awards. Rebecca went up and helped distribute the scholarships and as she was handing them out, she told them that "school is very important" and one of the girls answered, "I know".

The next stop was an orphanage just a short walk from the school. The orphanage used to be further away with gardens and pigs and a mushroom farm but unfortunately, the government wanted the land it was on and made them move. Luckily, the government paid for a brand new facility, which was actually really nice. They have only been there a month but they seem to like it. They have both girls and boys at the orphanage and most of the children were a bit older, no babies like the pagoda.  They send the kids to public school each day and as we were about to leave, we saw some of the kids walking home from class. They're pretty cute :) When we asked them "what are the challenges that you face" they said they were fine, that they loved their new facility and that they feel the kids have enough because they want the kids to learn to work for what they have. The woman that ran the orphanage was so cute. She used to be a librarian that volunteered at the orphanage but she fell in love and decided to work at the orphanage instead and is now the director. She was full of smiles and laughs and you could tell she really loved what she did.

After the visits we had an early night. I did some work at the ice cream shop again and then turned in for an early night. The next morning was going to be an early one. We were going to the mountains of T

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