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"Abandoned Children Given Love" - by Hau Minh Hieu

When I studied English at Victoria University, I had an opportunity to visit an orphanage in Go Vap District, Hochiminh City. After this excursion, I really wanted to do something for the orphaned and handicapped children but I did not know how I could help them. Fortunately, when I participated in an outdoor activity at Oversea Students Club, I met Mr. Loc Tran who is the regional manager of Donate For Children (DFC) in Hochiminh City, Vietnam.  I asked Mr. Tran to join and was accepted to become a DFC volunteer.

Within a few weeks, some volunteers and I went on to make a pre-visit at Thien Binh Orphanage; we were trying to study the needs of this children center. This orphanage was established in 1968. It helps not only orphaned babies and handicapped children, but also old women who are alone. The orphanage has not received any support or sponsorship from government, organizations, or companies. People who manage the orphanage have to raise funds by themselves so that they can feed and teach all the children. They breed animals, cultivate plants, and sell their own produce to have income.  However, they face financial difficulties because the government has started to take away their farming lands.  Though facing difficulties, the orphanage continued running. The staff has planned special programs for mentally-disordered children to learn vocational trade, but it is difficult for these kids to study like other ordinary children. Realistically, it is nearly impossible because the staff can not afford the costs.
While observing the orphanage’s facilities, I realize that it is difficult for the children to live there because the sleeping quarters are substandard. The center truly needs supporting equipment and household appliances such as air-conditioning, washing machines, clothes, and more importantly, they need nutritious food.  Everyday, the children have to get up early to walk to schools that are located more than five kilometers away because there are not enough bicycles for every orphan.  For medical support, since the orphanage does not have enough equipment and medicine, the children usually use Vietnamese traditional acupunctures as the primary medical treatment.

Sadly, I can recall an eleven-year-old classmate who took the same English course with me last year. The young girl was born in a rich family. She is very intelligent. She sometimes knows things that I have not learnt before.  As a routine, she attends courses at high-tuition foreign schools in the morning, Vietnamese schools in the afternoon, and then piano, Chinese, art and computing classes in the evening and on weekend. She can obtain anything she wants that can only be afforded by the rich.  In comparing her life to  those children at Thien Binh, it is a huge contrast.  While the rich girl’s family enjoys a luxurious life, Thien Binh’s orphanage does not have enough funds for the orphaned babies and handicapped children to get food, to go to school, and to have other daily necessities.  Obviously, it is really unfair!

In one occasion, the rich girl read my article published in a Victoria University’s magazine regarding the orphaned babies and handicapped children at Go Vap Center. She asked me: “Why did you waste time on visiting those centers?” I answered to her that I felt a sense of compassion for those who are not as lucky as she and I.  Then, she asked me: “Are you not scared of those children? They make me really scared because of their deformities…”  I was really uncomfortable to listen to her comment, but at the same time, felt sorry for her.  How would she feel if she was in the reverse position?  Those unfortunate children are not only the human beings, they are also our fellow people.  We should help them to adapt into our society.

Fortunately, Thien Binh’s children are still in good hands as compared to other disadvantaged children because they have been taken care by the kind staff there which consist mostly nuns.  The staff serves as their parents, a big family with many mothers and children. Everyone seems to be well- mannered and composed.  Perhaps, these women would not be able to perform their jobs without enormous compassion and strong commitment. They are truly the “Unsung Heroes.”

I feel a little ashamed as I did not involve in volunteer activities sooner.  The individuals like DFC volunteers and the women at Thien Binh really inspire me.  It is a privilege to acknowledge that there are still people who are willing to sacrifice their lives for the happiness and well-being of others.

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