Thursday, April 21, 2011

2011 Journey of the Heart Report

We are now safely home in our wee cottage on Salt Spring, after our fourth annual Journey of the Heart in Vietnam. Our work was, if possible, more rewarding than ever before. We have focused our efforts on four projects whose leaders we have come to highly respect and where we are seeing the results in very real terms...more disabled trained and contributing at Reaching Out, more girls from a leprosy village being educated and achieving good results in high school, more victims of Agent Orange showing initiative and beginning to support themselves through small home based businesses and libraries going to school children in more remote and poorer villages.

Reaching Out $2000: The staff at Reaching Out now consists of 50 disabled artisans in the shop and 50 more throughout the countryside operating from their homes. Part of our "hands on " at RO this year was to help Binh and Quyen refine their recruitment and selection skills and while we were there we participated in the selection of a new Sales Supervisor for the shop. The leadership team now consists of that supervisor, and team leaders for the workshop, the warehouse, sewing and jewellery and metal work. We designated $2000 US towards leadership training for these people, who will be so integral to the continuing growth and success of this Fair Trade social enterprise.

Education for Children ( or grandchildren of lepers from Hoa Van village) $1650: Linda Hutchinson-Burn and her organization Children's Education Foundation which focuses on the education of disadvantaged girls, have captured our hearts and loyalty. We believe that this very small organization of volunteers are focused and driven by their mission " to help girls grow to be women with choices". Occasionally a boy with great potential and in severe poverty is also supported. Our donors dollars helped four promising high school students from the leprosy village of Hoa Van, with boarding and tuition expenses so that they could go to school in Da Nang. A very special boy Nam, will have his tuition paid next term.

Victims of Agent Orange $2400: This was one of our most generously endowed projects and one which this year was a most gratifying involvement for us. We continued to donate funds to desperately poor families whose disabilities are directed related to the dioxin agent orange sprayed as a defoliant by the Americans during the war. However, this year we were also able to break new ground with the Hoi An chapter of VAVA ( Vietnamese Association for victims of Agent Orange). Miss Hoa, the Director and her lovely assistant Phuong embraced our suggestion of setting up a " micro loan" program. Now, families can submit proposals for home based businesses and apply for a loan. We saw the first "pilot" project launched with our funds last year...a front yard recreation business, with a ping pong table and fooz ball, pay for play. The neighbourhood kids love it and this family of blind parents of a daughter with cerebral palsy are looking forward to saving enough of their profits to buy a refridgerator. Soon to follow were a small fishing boat repair (with record catches on the maiden voyage), a thatch for roofing business and a sewing machine for at home work. The joy in seeing these diligent people, proudly earning a living was a highlight of our 2011 Journey of the Heart.

Libraries for Remote Village Schools $2000:  When we first were involved with Le Ly Hayslip and Global Village Foundation four years ago, we knew that our interest and support would be enduring and so also has it been with a dedicated group of our donors. This year we welcomed Olivia and Hannah, two eight year old girls from North Vancouver to our team....they donated the funds collected at their joint birthday party!!! It was very moving to show Olivia and Hannah's picture to the kids in the remote and destitute hill tribe village in Hiep Duc and tell them that these two kids their age wanted them to experience the same joy that they have when reading. 

We have returned home again with full hearts. We are very grateful that we have found this meaningful way to spend our "retirement" years....learning, contributing and being amongst these beautiful people...the Vietnamese that we serve, the dedicated volunteers whom we meet. We are especially appreciative of you, our home team of donors and supporters, who make it possible for us to spread the love of many Canadians and Americans. Thank you! Cam On!