Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Home to Spring on Salt Spring Island

We have arrived home to our little house on Salt Spring Island and despite the fog of jet lag, we are appreciating the cool, fresh air, safe clean water from the tap, cosy flannelette sheets on a soft comfortable bed, the blissful silence in the garden and on the forest paths and the spring blooms which were here to greet us.
Our Journey of the Heart 2009/2010 has been most gratifying with lots of work balanced with sweet times with our Vietnamese family and friends old and new.
Here is a summary of all the gifts that we delivered on your behalf.
Nha Trang Home for Unwed Mothers $300 USD. This gift will feed, clothe and diaper the babies for months.

ROHO Wheelchair Cushion $600 CDN. This very high tech cushion will allow Mr. Binh to stay in his chair for more than the fifteen minutes he had been limited to by severe pain in his lower back. He will be able to continue his work as Director of Reaching Out and as advocate for people of disability all over Vietnam. Thanks to Dan and Sam of the home team for helping us find exactly the right appliance.
Global Village Foundation Typhoon Relief $400 USD. Essential food items were delivered to those whose homes were lost in the floods following typhoon Kitsana.
Global Village Foundation Portable Libraries Project $1500 USD. Three libraries of 250 books each were delivered to remote village schools.
Children's Education Foundation $1600 USD. Four children from Hoa Van leprosy village will attend school in the city of Da Nang, where they will be able to reach their potential and break the cycle of poverty and discrimination which they suffer.
Hien- Artist on Wheels $400 USD. Your wedding gift of a home computer will allow this promising young artist who is a paraplegic to market his paintings over the web.
Hoa-Disabled Breast Disease Victim $400 USD. Hoa, mother of two charming daughters will be able to buy several months supply of badly needed medication. We were also happy to pay rent for Hoa and her family, so that they could be housed safely during the flooding which follwed typhoon Kitsana
VAVA-Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange $1600 USD. Twenty seven families whose physical disabilites are attributed to this deadly dioxin and prohibit their earning a living will have food and clothing.
Reaching Out Vietnam $1000 USD. The kitchen where a nutritious lunch is prepared daily and the bathroom serving the 45 disabled workers will be renovated.
Reaching Out Vietnam $1000 USD. Training sponsorships will allow this social enterprise to hire more differently abled people and give them an opportunity to become independent.
Over the course of our stay in Hoi An, we provided countless hours of "consulting services" to Reaching Out, Bruce working with Binh on the aquisition of new computer software and Elaine developing letter templates and solving daily operational issues with Quyen. We revisited the "Strategy Map", the Business Plan and tossed around new marketing strategies. We celebrated the success of 2009 with all the was a banner year!!
Along the way, we also helped Huyen our friend in the Hoi An home for the aged and the disabled veterans in the street who sell whistles and postcards.
Support from the home team included the masterful  creation of a training manual by Janice Finnemore, gifts of red Canada hats, mitts and scarves ( a big hit because of the Olympics) from Kim at Mouat's Hardware. Stan Teitge's encouragement to Reaching Out has met fertile ground and with the donation of a lathe from New Zealand, wood working will be added to the skill set. We encouraged the locals to use cloth bags by handing out big Canada cloth bags. Canada pins from the Houssers were coveted souvenirs. The young gardeners at our home stay proudly wore their pins, declaring "I am Canadian!"

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Sunday, March 7, 2010

International Women's Day


All over Vietnam, women are celebrated on International Women's Day, with flowers, parties, recognition events, and this year it seems that the schools are even closed!

Women are acknowledged for their heroism during the wars, for their support of and involvement with the Party, their steadfast custody of the family and their business acumen. These public displays fill one with hope that the discrimination, abuse and inequities are on the wain, but we are not that convinced. Acquaintances here, who have long careers of service in Vietnam, pinpoint women's issues as pivotal in the development of this country. They feel that until there are radical changes in attitude towards women, there will not be progress. Spousal abuse is rampant, pay inequities are common, women and children's health issues receive no funding.

Yet again, what you see is not what you get in Vietnam. The gloss of TV and newspaper coverage in the large cities can not fully disquise the hunger, poverty and hardship of too many women in this culture, particularly among villagers, ethnic minorities and the disabled.

Today however the female contingent at Reaching Out were honored for their courage and accomplishments. With the support of this social enterprise, they have become beacons of hope for their disadvantaged sisters.
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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Sesame is Six

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Today is our grandson's sixth birthday. His Mom and Dad and Bruce and Elaine ( Ong Ba) all went to the school to join the kids for a party. Forty five children all in one classroom, with only one teacher for most of the day!!! She does get some help at lunch time, when they serve a hot lunch to all the kids. 

The birthday party was at 9:30 am. Mom, Quyen had brought fruit and yogurt for all AND a little silk bag for each child The girls got a barrett, the boys a small plastic car. Everyone got ONE candy!

There was a lot of singing and of course Ba Elaine had to get into the action with a few silly songs as well!

Sesame performed on his key board, focusing for all of two minutes, before having a go at his cake with the little plastic spoon intended for his yogurt.

Despite the fact that it was VERY hot and absolute mayhem we had a great time!