Hiaphong was the next destination on our travels through Vietnam. Staying at a local hotel near the city’s centre, we took a short motorbike ride to the second destination on Xain’s schedule: Hoa Phuong Orphanage.
Little did I know, my experience at this centre would leave a lasting impression.
Once again, we worked through the language barrier, and introduced ourselves, and what we were there to do. We were given an introduction to the centre and some background on the city.
I was shocked to learn only 1 in 3 of the city’s orphans would be taken in by an orphanage. Of the estimated 2000 orphans in the area, 1300 children would remain homeless. They would not grow up in a supportive home environment.
The centre we visited had ten houses, each accommodating seven children and a mother to care for them. Two or three children would share a bedroom, and ‘mum’ would share with the youngest child, so she could care for them at night.
The houses were in close proximity to each other, which I imagined created a strong sense of community at this centre, as all the children seemed to know each other and be friends. There was a large garden area too, for the children to play outside in.
So introductions were done. It was show time again for Sox’s and myself. It was time to make a little fun and laughter happen!
We gave out some red noses to the children. Then we made various balloons for the children including flowers, dogs and swords. Again we got the children involved, so we weren’t the only one’s spinning plates and performing the tricks!
The children even challenged me to a balloon sword fight, which ended in my swift defeat (I was outnumbered to say the least!). Sox’s then lined the children up to throw balls at me, and see if they could throw them and get them to stick to the velcro helmet I was wearing! Challenge accepted- the children were determined to succeed, even if it meant throwing the balls at me again….and again……and again!!!
After the show, some of the children offered to give us a tour of the centre, and take us round to the houses to visit the families. We didn’t even need to ask, they volunteered without asking for anything in return.
As we arrived in each house, we were welcomed by the children of that house, offered a place to sit, a drink, and they even turned the fans on for us!
The hospitality, kindness and spirit of these children was amazing. They may not have some of the luxuries we take for granted (Ipads, internet, brands etc), and may have had difficult beginnings, and faced challenges growing up in Vietnam, but this didn’t stop them showing us all the positive elements of human nature.
How welcoming, positive and kind these children were, really did impress me, and they didn’t ask for anything in return.
Visiting this orphanage definitely was an eye opener. First the realisation that the majority of orphans in the Haiphong area wouldn’t be lucky enough to grow up in loving, stable, family environment. In the West, we often take this for granted.
Secondly, the inspirational positive attitude and character of these children- they gave without expecting anything in return, and regardless of what they hadn’t had in life. These children really were inspirational, because they reminded me, even though life had seemed to deal them less, they showed all the good qualities of human nature.
So what did I take away from this orphanage? On top of an amazing experience and the opportunity to meet some amazing children?
Just a little perspective. Of how lucky I am, and how thankful I should be. And how it’s important, even when things do seem to go wrong, to maintain some perspective.