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A Vietnamese Reminder…

As we returned to the capital Hanoi, we visited the final centre on our adventure through Vietnam. Whilst this orphanage provided a home for a number of children who would otherwise be without one, this centre presented a contrast with the other centres we had visited, and a candid reminder many children in Vietnam still require outside help.

The Bo De Pagoda’s Orphanage centre was a small institution with a few bedrooms, a classroom, and an outside play area with some chairs and tables.

In addition to providing a home for approximately 80-orphaned children, this centre also provided shelter for homeless people. There was a bedroom for homeless women, and a bedroom for homeless men.

The Homeless Women’s Room- they were very welcoming to me and Sox’s, offering us a place to sit & a fan in the hot weather

However the residents of this centre faced a number of problems, from what appeared to be caused by neglect and poor organisation. Many of these problems were a shock to myself and Sox.

Several of the children at this centre had contracted skin conditions due to their carers practicing poor hygiene with them, and not teaching the children good hygiene practices.

In addition to the poor hygiene practices at the centre, 30-40 children were being forced to live in rooms that were only big enough for a fraction of that number. The rooms were dirty and unmaintained too, and smelt from being overcrowded.

Jack, a volunteer at the centre, showed us around the orphanage and explain some the centre’s issues that were letting the children down. He mentioned how he had caught some of the centre’s carers hitting the children, and security staff had been caught sexually abusing children too (a shocking contrast to some of dedicated mothers and staff we had met at previous centres).

Some of the carers and homeless residents had been known to have stolen from the children too.

Our guide explained how some of the centre’s children suffered from medical issue toos, which with some money could easily be treated, and would have already been so in many Western countries.

For example one baby was suffering from cataract (a condition which impairs vision). However luckily for this baby, Jack and some friends back home in the UK, were in the process of raising the money to pay for the baby’s operation, so the problem could be corrected.

Jack then took us to see where the people who were responsible for running this orphanage stayed. We walked around the corner, and then saw their accommodation.

The accommodation was of good infrastructure, a modern design, and good, clean conditions. In addition there were gold statues and a safe full of financial donations from the centre’s visitors. There was also some construction going on, and a new building being built for the people who ran the orphanage (in addition to prodigious building that already stood).

Out of the centres we had visited, this one definitely had the children living in the poorest conditions. This made it hard for me and Sox’s to accept, that just around the corner, others were living in such contrasting conditions (and these people were meant to be caring for the orphans here?).

A New Building in the Orphanage (But not for the Orphans...)

Luckily a charity called Projects Abroad had come in, to help the centre’s children. They were the ones who introduced the classroom for the children to learn and play in. They had also assigned a paid teacher to the centre, who was in the process of trying to reorganize it, to benefit the children. Jack was one of the volunteers’ from this charity, and he planned to stay at the centre for the next few months, trying to improve conditions at the centre.

The charity, the teacher and the volenteers had already made a difference to this centre, although there was still of lot of work to be done. Without them, things would not be getting better at this centre. The children would continue to live in poor conditions and suffer abuse.

Jack (back left), teacher (back inner right), Orphans & Volunteers pose for a photo in the classroom- a classroom that would not be there, had it not been for Projects Abroad

As these children had been through so much, and some of them suffered from emotional and behavioral problems due to the abuse they had suffered, as well as the people running the centre being quite strict, we thought it was best to tone done our act on this occassion…

However we still interacted with the children, played some games with them, helped them with some of their schoolwork and made some balloons with them!

This centre definitely provided a contrast compared to other places we had visited. Compared to the efforts of centers like Peace Village, SOS Village and the Disabled Support School, to make a difference, this centre provided a reminder that not all Vietnese children are as lucky.

Whilst a great number are very lucky to be cared for by such good centres, those who are in the care of less able or responsible centres, or have not been taken in by any centres at all, still need help.

Luckily in this case, Projects Abroad has stepped in and is working to make a difference. However there is still a great number of Vietnese children who require aid and support.

On this trip to Vietnam, we’d tried to make a difference to the children through clowning- through laughter and fun, and hopefully we had. It’s been a wonderful experience, and a privilege to meet these children, and visit centre’s and meet others who were making such a difference too.

But it’s important to remember too, on top of all the positive experiences and memories, there is still a lot of work to be done in Vietnam.

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