Thursday, October 30, 2008

Paper-mâché ....... a lighter moment

On our travels back and forth to Hanoi we have had many amazing experiences.

While some of them have been very sad, others have been quite heartwarming and a few of them have been truly life altering for those involved.

................ and occasionally there has been just plain old great fun!

Like the time spent making Paper Mâché fish with the Friendship Home kids.

We made an entire underwater world, complete with Octopus.

It was for the HSCV annual fundraiser .................. and our kids won a prize!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Hiens story ........

A while ago Dat asked about us helping a young girl Hien, to stay in school.
Hien is 15 yrs old and the eldest of three children, she has two younger brothers, aged 11 & 13 years old. Both brothers have been struck down with a disease that has not only left them incapacitated but also horrendously disfigured and in constant pain.

The family is very poor, and what little resources they have ever had, have gone into medical expenses to try and save their sons, all to no avail. The boys condition has constantly deteriorated and the family have been told that nothing can be done. As the eldest and only healthy child, you can imagine the responsibility and burden that is Hien’s future.

Hien’s family cannot afford the expenses involved with her going to school, they also need her to earn money to help the family to care for her brothers. Hien would really like to stay in school.

Dat met with the family a few times to work out what they needed and how we could assist them. He told Hien to go back to school and he reassured her parents that we will help them. We are now supporting her education and paying for medicine for the boys, along with regular donations of fruit and coca cola, because that is their favourite thing in the world!!

Dat has since met with Hien and her family quite a few times, while the boys are not doing so well, Hien is doing okay. She lives quite a distance from her school so ACCV has purchased a bicycle for her, she not only uses it to go to and from school she also takes her brothers out for a bit of a ride around as a treat for them.

Dat asked her how she was enjoying being back at school, her response was a broad smile as she said;

" to continue studying brings me great happiness."

As an interesting aside to us helping Hien, she and Dat have got to know each other quite well and she now helps him out and takes photos for him of different projects that we are working on - he then sends the photos on to me, ........... thanks Hien :)


Friday, October 24, 2008

Listening to music ...........

Before our trip to Hanoi in March this year, I received a number of emails asking if I would meet with a man named ‘Mr Dat’. This Mr Dat had been helping three young blind people from a very poor province in Central Vietnam and he needed assistance - he was asking for just an hour of my time.

I eventually agreed to meet Mr Dat and the children, two girls and a boy. I knew they were in a very difficult situation, what I didn’t know was that Mr Dat was only 24 years old and that he was also blind. A dynamic character, he was determined to improve the lives of these children and he had used his own very meagre resources to bring them to Hanoi in search of opportunity, these resources were now exhausted, he was asking ACCV to help.

We met up at a little café in the old quarter in Hanoi, the children sat very quietly, answering questions that were asked of them, slowly they warmed to the conversation. At one point one of the girls laughed and I noticed a resemblance to the other, I asked Dat if they were related. “Oh, yes Alison, all three children are from the same family, and they have a younger brother aged four who is also blind, he has remained in Quanh Binh province”

…….. they were all from the same family.

We met with them a couple of times that week, and at one point Rose and I decided we would like to give them a gift…. but what? All the usual options didn’t apply – books / pens / balls etc… eventually Rose decided on a little MP3 player each of them. We tried to organise some Vietnamese music to upload onto them but with no success. In the end Rose transferred the music from her own MP3 player ....the High school musical soundtrack!!

It was amazing to watch the children trustingly allow people they don’t know, who were speaking a language they don’t know, to fiddle around with their ears attaching earphones etc. …
They were just mesmerised by the music .....…. their faces really did light up.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A special girl...... a special day.

Early last year I had arranged to take the children on a visit to the Hanoi circus. At the last minute my interpreter fell through, 25 kids and their carers, none of whom could speak English, and me - who couldn’t speak Vietnamese …… it was quite a dilemma!

I contacted a great little organisation known as "Hanoikids" a voluntary group of Hanoian university students who enjoy taking tourists around Hanoi, free of charge. The students have an opportunity to practise their English and at the same time share their culture with visitors. I explained my dilemma to them and even though I wasn’t a tourist going to see the sites, they happily sent someone along to accompany me and the troops to the circus. A delightful young woman, …….. miss Nguyet Anh.

We had a wonderful day and Anh turned out to be not only a great interpreter but also a real hit with the kids, they had great fun with her! Afterwards Anh & I went off, somewhat exhausted, for a coffee together. We exchanged stories and contact details and when I returned to Australia we kept in touch.

With subsequent trips to Hanoi, Anh came along with us on excursions and visits to see the children. She also joined us as an interpreter at meetings with the Blind Association and she soon got to know Quan, Dat and the children. Over time she has become a great friend to Rose & I and a wonderful contact in Hanoi for ACCV, we're so pleased we got to know her.

She is now a valuable member of the ACCV team ................ and today is her birthday.

Happy Birthday Nguyet Anh!

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Children of Friendship Home

As mentioned in a previous post we had a wonderful time when we met the children of Friendship home on our first visit to Hanoi in 2006. It was actually these kids that inspired us to come home and do something. The children range in age from 4 yrs to 17 yrs old. There are usually about 18 children living in the home at one time.

Many different circumstances have contributed to the children living in the home. Death, poverty, illness, abandonment or incarceration, whatever the reason, they cannot live at home. They are a great bunch of kids and we aim to enhance their lives where we can. We support the English class that is run at the home and we occasionally supplement their kitchen. and bathroom supplies, we have also purchased outdoor playground equipment for them.

Most important of all, we have made a commitment to the children to return to visit them at least twice each year. We want to be a constant in their lives.

On every return visit we also take them out for an excursion, somewhere fun to break the monotony, somewhere that would normally be out of their league. And over the past couple of years we have really had some fun. An outing we’ll never forget was the day we took them ten pin bowling …...

Hilarious! none of them had any idea how to bowl, they sailed the ball in different directions, they rolled balls down other peoples aisles… they chased the ball down the alleys.....… Great fun!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The story of Quan......

When I first met Quan early last year, he was living in a little shack, up in the hills a few hours outside of Hanoi.

As a young child he had been a very bright boy who loved school, reading and playing with his friends. When he became ill at age ten, complications set in and with no money for medical care or treatment the end result was that he slowly lost his sight. His family is very poor and his father has been incapacitated since suffering a stroke a few years ago, his mother does all she can to hold things together and to keep them fed and clothed. They are genuinely lovely people and while it was nice to spend time with them it was truly heartbreaking to think that this boy had sat here for years, and in all likelihood he would continue to just sit here.

Quans mother cried as she talked about her fears for him as she aged, Quan sat very quietly nearby and simply listened.

Back in Hanoi, Nam and I were on a mission! We had a list of schools for the Blind, Blind Associations, Blind Organisations and on and on. It was a piping hot June day and in between ice colas and mango smoothies we set off on Nams motorbike to talk to the powers that be.

Another complication was that Quan is not from Hanoi province, so technically he did not belong to any of the organisations. Eventually we met with the Vice Chairman of the Blind Association who proposed that we fund an entire class of ten and Quan could be included in that new course. We then went and told Quan and his mother that he could come to Hanoi for six months to learn to read & write Braille and to be trained as a professional massage therapist, if they agreed. They were both delighted and eager ..…. Quan very clearly announced “I want to read … and I want a life!”

I returned to Australia and told Quan’s story, we sold a whole lot of sausages and we gratefully accepted any and all donations, it didn’t take too long to get the funds together.

………………..and so Quan’s new life began.

Nam once again made the trek up the mountains, this time to collect Quan and bring him to his new life in Hanoi, which he took to like a duck to water, he absolutely thrived! He loved the fact that he could read again, he would carry Braille news articles under his arm so that he could have a quick read at any given opportunity (making up for lost time!) he loved living at the school and he made friends with his peers, he was coming right out of his shell.

When we returned to Hanoi in March Quan was a qualified massage therapist, complete with confidence, job and girlfriend! We spent a day together to take Quan back up to Tu Ly to visit his family. We were honestly amazed at the transformation that had taken place.

Quan returned to his hometown a very different person to the shy, withdrawn young man who had left 9 months previously. Even his mother was amazed at the change in him. His homecoming was quite an event in his village and he was loving it! He was confidently involved in every conversation, joking and teasing Rose, playing pat-a-cake, he really was a different person. At one point he turned to me and said

………‘Thank you so much, I am really happy with my new life!’........

Later, Rose and I were chatting about the amazing difference in his personality. We decided that the shy, withdrawn Quan was just a reflexion of his situation and the fun, confident, Quan was always in there, he just needed a hand to come out.

Quan’s story is everything that ACCV is and what we aspire to be.

This is exactly the sort of thing that your donations achieve, no matter how small, every donation contributes to changing these young lives.

Thank you!


Saturday, October 18, 2008

Well here it is ....... the ACCV Blog!

The Story so far........

The Australian Charity for the Children of Vietnam (ACCV) began in 2006 after the Vidotto family went to Vietnam for a holiday.

We met the lovely children of Friendship Home when we sponsored the supplies for an English language class a friend was establishing there.
What began as a quick visit to deliver the supplies turned into an afternoon of great fun, friendship and mayhem! Our kids couldn’t speak Vietnamese, they couldn’t speak English, but before too long squeals of delight could be heard! The children then began blowing up balloons and passing them back and forth………. before too long they were filled with water and being tossed out of third story windows and directly onto those below!! Nobody escaped the water, it was a fun filled drenching for all!

Friendships between our children and those living in the home began that day and with each visit to Hanoi since, they have grown stronger.

We had a lot of fun in Hanoi, we became friends with Nam and he showed us around, gave us the tour guide treatment and even helped us cross the crazy roads! While it was a great holiday, the difference between the standard of living and opportunities available to our children and those of the Vietnamese children we spent time with were too obvious to miss and as a family we decided that we wanted to do something to help. We returned to Australia and hopped aboard the permit seeking, fundraising bandwagon, ACCV was born!

The last couple of years have been quite the roller coaster ride and ACCV has grown quite quickly. Rose and I are particularly active in the running of ACCV and together we go back and forth to Hanoi. While there have certainly been a number of heartaches and challenges, there has been a huge amount of joy and we have met some of the most amazing people.

We are truly appreciative of the support we receive.