Thursday, December 20, 2007

Counting the Days and Our Blessings

As Christmas approaches we are busy with our last minute preparations for our Journey of the Heart. Bruce departs January 4th and Elaine departs January 12th.

Meanwhile, it is Christmas every day at our house as donations and gifts continue to arrive to support our work in Vietnam. Thank you to everyone who has sent money, goods, hand knit bandages and most of all your kind thoughts and prayers to deliver to the Vietnamese.

Today in both the hardware store and at the dentist's office I encountered people who were hoping that it was not too late to add to our now bulging suitcases!

And every day we are in touch with another agency in Vietnam who is hoping that they will be on our list.

So far our projects include:
  • delivery of bandages in Ho Chi Minh City for distribution to people with leprosy
  • visiting an Go Vap orphanage and Tu Do hospital in Ho Chi Minh City
  • volunteering at Reaching Out in Hoi An
  • presenting bursaries to disabled trainees, both crafts people and those doing computer training
  • visiting the Hoi An home for the aged and the orphanage to present personal hygiene items and toys
  • volunteering with the Global Village Foundation's Portable Libraries project, assisting with a workshop to introduce the portable libraries to teachers, librarians and children in villages in the Hoi An area
  • visiting Hoa Van, an isolated leprosy village on the Central Coast to deliver food and consult with care givers about their needs for our hand knit bandages

All of these projects are possible because of the kindnesses of our donors. Thank you for your generosity. You all will be in our hearts as we travel through Vietnam.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Reaching Out From Kenora, Ontario

Our appeal for support touched the hearts of Heather Rothwell's Grade Eight class at St. Thomas Aquinas School in Kenora, Ontario.

For their Christmas project, they have worked hard to put together gift bags for the people of Vietnam who, because of their poverty often lack personal hygeine items that we here in Canada take for granted.

The students earned money or solicited donations for everything in their gift bags.

How wonderful it will be to present the gifts to the Vietnamese on behalf of these kids in Kenora. We will have fun trying to explain the snow outside the window! We will be asked questions about how old they are, what they are wearing and how long they have been in school. The Vietnamese kids will be amazed that the very tall people in this picture are only 13 or 14 years old!

We are so grateful for the efforts of these young Canadians, whose thoughtfulness, gifts and good wishes we are proud to deliver. Peace.
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Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Leprosy in Vietnam

Leprosy still exists in Vietnam. Despite the efforts of the World Health Organization and the government of Vietnam there is still an instance of 1 case per 10,000 people a year. In a country of 80,000,000 this is 8000 cases!

Although the stigma is lifting, many people suffering from leprosy still live in isolated villages. They are unable to integrate because of the stigma and because of their physical limitations they are unable to earn a living.

On our two tours with Tours of Peace we have visited two separate villages where the inhabitants are sufferers of leprosy or are family members of those with leprosy. We delivered precious bandages, food and a small amount of money for each resident.

Please check the link to the right for Touching Others, which tells the story of our visits and of the wonderful "bandage brigade"...women from all over the United States and Canada, who are hand knitting the bandages which are so treasured by the victims of this debilitating disease.

The man pictured, above left, was the "spokesperson" on our last trip. His welcoming speech was heartfelt and moving. He delivered it, unabashedly, with tears in his eyes. Despite the loss of his fingers, he was gracious and buoyant.

Bruce and I will be carrying as many bandages as our suitcases will carry so that they will reach those in need.

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Saturday, August 18, 2007

A Little Help from our Friends

Since we have published this blog and begun to talk with friends and family about this next chapter in our Journey of the Heart, we have been showered with encouragement and blessings for our return to Vietnam.
Some people have already asked "What can we do to help?" "Do you ever take people with you to volunteer?" Our hearts are warmed by this outpouring of care, but must admit that we are somewhat unprepared with answers.
As always we will be stuffing our suitcases with goods that will be useful for our friends at Reaching Out and at the Hoi An Home for the Aged: personal hygiene items, gently used clothing, pens etc.
We are particularly touched by the enquiries about taking others with us and had not considered how an "army" of Canadians could be put to use, but we will certainly be thinking about ways that you may serve.
One of the things that I have just discovered is that Mr. Binh at Reaching Out also runs a Computer Training Facility for people with disabilities. This opens another avenue of possibilities for involvement. We don't have the expertise to contribute there, but we will sure check out what their needs may be.
Of course there is always a financial need for medical supplies purchased "in country" for distribution for those unable to afford over-the -counter drugs.
Tours of Peace the organization with which we travelled to Vietnam on our first two tours, will accept donations for these humanitarian projects.
We also would put any monies to good use in Hoi An in January.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Reaching Out Mission

This is the Mission Statement for Reaching Out where we will be working from late January to the end of February 2008.
Bruce and I were so impressed at the shop last March. All of the artisans who were working in the room behind the store were friendly, welcoming and very proud of their work. Although we were very limited in what we were able to communicate, we felt that they were healthy, well and happy.
Inside the store we took this picture before learning that it was not permitted, but we are glad that we have this first hand reminder of the orgaization's intent.
Click on the link to the right for Reaching Out and you will be able to read profiles of the individuals who work here and see some of their fine work.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Meet our Fellow Staff at Reaching Out

Pictured here are the staff and some of the artisans with whom we will be working in January and February 2008 at Reaching Out in Hoi An. The founder of the organization is Mr. Binh, seated in the wheelchair in the center of the photograph.

We have not met any of these folks, other than those who were in the store when we visited in March. Little did we know that three months later, we would be signed on as volunteers and very excited about another journey to Vietnam.

Elaine is now working on a project for Mr. Binh, endeavouring to find retail partners for their beautiful crafts here in Canada and researching Fair Trade agreements.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Poignant Moments in Vietnam

These are the moments which we cherish, in our beloved Vietnam.... sharing the warmth of hugs, the joy of play, and supporting the quest for significant sites where Bruce served as a young soldier. Vietnam changed his life some forty years ago and again when we returned in 2006 and 2007.

Now we visit a country vibrant with new hope and industry, deep, rich cultural and religious traditions and warm and welcoming people.
However centuries of conflict in Vietnam, have left a legacy of poverty and disease, with Agent Orange embedded in the soil and the gene pool. The rate of birth defects is extremely high and unexploded ordnance has claimed the limbs of many curious children. Leprosy still exists ( see the side bar for a link to leprosy bandage blog to learn more about this disease and the bandages that are so urgently needed.)

The extent of the need, the extreme poverty and the painful legacy of Agent Orange seem not to daunt these resilient people. Their smiles bely the circumstances in which we could not imagine ourselves living.
We hope to share the bounty and blessiings of our lives with them.

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