After our visit to the northern mountain regions of Vietnam, we drive to a shelter for orphans and disabled children on our last day in Ho Chi Minh City. In a pagoda the Buddhist Association takes care of children who have been laid in front of their door or even abandoned in a market. The kids are orphans, mentally or physically disabled or blind. They get a bed, will be nourished and cared for, and can go to the nearby school if they are able to do so. All financed by donations only.
For one year now, Save the Children has provided training in children’s rights to strengthen their self-confidence and to enable them to protect themselves against physical, mental or sexual violence.
We take part in one of these trainings. Together with the kids, Save the Children discusses and explains the types of violence with which children may be confronted.
At the end the children mark with green, yellow and red dots on posters the parts of a body which can be touched by all people (= green), some people like family members (= yellow) or no stranger at all (= red).
Now the monks of the pagoda show us the rooms where the children live. When we saw the rooms many of us had tears in our eyes. The beds are close together at the walls, no daylight is available, the rooms aren’t cosy but affectionate volunteers take care of their charges. Some of them are nursing cases, others are fed or swaddled or playing games. Fifteen to 20 children live in each room; about 150 children are taken care of in the pagoda.
What else can Save the Children do in such an environment? With the help of the IKEA Foundation, the volunteers will be trained in healthcare and nurturing. Even though the living conditions are appalling, the support for the volunteers is even more important because they are confronted with a situation which would be a challenge even for well experienced and trained nurses. The kids will profit from these trainings.
During a meeting with the monks we asked how they can do their work surrounded by so much suffering? They answer: first of all, they accept the situation as it is. And secondly they are convinced that it is their fate to help here and it makes them happy to fulfil their fate.
This last visit showed us again the tremendous and manifold challenges with which Save the Children and all other supporters are confronted in Vietnam. From the remote, poor, mountain regions in the north, where many kids walk long distances to visit a school, to the crowded cities, in which people have to fight for their lives and where children easily can get out of focus. With huge respect and deep gratefulness, we bid farewell to all the heroes of everyday life.