Sunday, November 10, 2013

One 2013/2014 Target Met

Over the years, Journeys of the Heart has worked closely with Children's Education Foundation. This small grassroots organization, run in-country by Linda Hutchinson Burn, is an NGO with Boards in both the USA and Australia.

We work with CEF for a number of reasons.

  • we endorse the mission of CEF…their focus is education for girls from poor families, who without support, would not attend school and therefore would not have choices as women and sadly, may be trafficked. Trafficking is increasing with the growing gulf between rich and poor in Vietnam.
  • we have been impressed with the "hands-on" approach that Linda and her staff take in assessing needs, administering funds, auditing student progress and family health and income levels. Home visits are frequent and school reports are monitored.
  • we appreciate that the whole family situation is taken into consideration in each case.
  • we applaud the fact that CEF is creating new programs ( a new lending library for example) and is flexible about sponsoring boys who may also have extremely difficult family situations.
  • we also were thrilled that CEF took on the challenge of housing and educating children from the leprosy village of Hoa Van, who would not have otherwise have had an opportunity for a high school education.

This is Thuy. Thuy lives with her Grandmother and other relatives in a simple house. She has been sponsored by a generous donor to Journeys of the Heart for a number of years. Thuy is a good student and is also very helpful around the house and caring for her younger cousins.

Each child has a different story and different but always difficult challenges: single parent households, serious illness of one or both parents, physical disabilities, abandonment, and crushing poverty.

Journeys of the Heart has been able to send enough funds to CEF this year to sponsor ten children who would not otherwise go to school. 

Thank you to all of our donors who have made this possible! 

Friday, October 18, 2013

So Much to Overcome

Once again Hoi An where we live and work while in Vietnam has been slammed by a typhoon, this one called Nari. Pelting rain accompanied the winds and of course there was significant flooding. The streets became waterways.

This is a shot of our precious Reaching Out craft shop, with the entire store under water. Wisely, the staff had lifted all of the machinery and merchandise up onto slings from the ceiling so that the water damage was limited to the structure.

Beachside the devastation was significant....trees snapped off and buildings were destroyed. Our favourite bistro is hardly recognizable.

Many residences lost roofs and the damage to trees, vegetation, rice fields and crops is heart breaking. There was no electricity for several days and repair work is slow.

We spent a few tense days, until we had heard that all of our family, friends and associates survived and are well.

However, the families in the countryside, and those of the girls sponsored by our partner, Children's Education Foundation have suffered the most damage. This is yet another setback for these poor families who struggle at the best of times.

Your donations to Journeys of the Heart will be appreciated even more this year.

If you have not yet sent your cheque, there is still time:

Journeys of the Heart
105 Hilltop Road
Salt Spring Island, BC
V8K 1V9

We hope that our mail box is flooded with envelopes, to help the courageous people with whom we work overcome yet another hardship.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Gracious Giving

Grace and gracious.....two lovely words....meaning elegance and beauty or divine blessing. Both meanings apply to the recent gifting through Journeys of the Heart, to Children's Education Foundation in Hoi An, Vietnam.

Our dear friend Carole Earle Musgrave died recently. Carole was a brilliant, funny lady. Her friendships were many. She was a lover of words and books; in fact Carole was an early and patient editor of the manuscript of our book Back to Vietnam: Tours of the Heart. Throughout the years Carole was also a staunch supporter of Journeys of the Heart and so was her book club....the Red Tent Book Club. The RTBC annually donated funds for libraries in remote villages.

I was very moved when one of the RTBC members e-mailed me to say that they would like very much to donate funds for a library in memory of Carole. I immediately thought of Linda Hutchinson-Burns' attempts to build a traveling library for the girls whose education CEF sponsors. These girls from poor families have no access to books and often are not close to a library. Some villages and schools simply do not have libraries.

We all agreed that this would be a sweet way to remember Carole and now Linda and her staff are happily shopping for books. Each one is stamped with the quote "Today a Reader: Tomorrow a Leader" and " This Book is from your Auntie Carole in Canada, who loved books".

The book topics range from fairy tales, to the environment, science, nature, art and self-improvement and the Auntie Carole library is still growing.

Remembering a friend, colleague or family member with a donation to a cause close to their hearts is a gracious way to honour their memory. We have also received gifts to honour birthdays, graduations, promotions and life milestones.

Thank you to the Red Tent Book Club for remembering Carole Earle Musgrave in this gracious way. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Annual Appeal Launched

Journeys of the Heart 2014 Appeal

 Journeys of the Heart has been reaching out to the disenfranchised in Vietnam since 2008. When we leave in December 2013 for another three months of work it will be our sixth journey.

This is what we know for sure!

·       Grass roots, sustainable organizations and projects have a significant impact

·       Helping people to help themselves through education, training and micro-loan programs is far better than giving handouts

·       Locally run projects reach the real needs of people within their communities who “slip through the cracks” of government or international NGO initiatives

·       Our skills as retired business consultants and former educators are useful tools in our capacities as advisers to three of the organizations we serve.

·       We continue to garner great joy and personal satisfaction from our work with our Vietnamese “clients”, friends and family as well as the expats who are also there to serve.

·      With your financial support we ARE making a difference; changing lives, educating more girls from poor families, training more disabled young people, delivering more books to remote villages and assisting victims of Agent Orange in becoming self supporting

Results from our 2012 Journey of the Heart:

  • ·       Delivered five portable libraries to a remote school district in the Mekong Delta in co-operation with Global Village Foundation 
  • ·       Sponsored seven girls in the Children’s Education Foundation’s scholarship program
  • ·       Provided micro-loans to five Agent Orange victim families for the purposes of establishing home based businesses
  • ·       Provided training for four new employees at both the Reaching Out Craft Shop and the Reaching Out Tea House, where persons of disability are gainfully employed and learn to lead independent lives
  • ·       Gave special gifts of shampoo and face cloths for an old folks home, Oxford Picture dictionaries for deserving students, medicines for a cancer patient, books for young girls being harboured in a pagoda


Our goals for 2014:

·       5 libraries - $500 per library
·       10 education scholarships for girls at risk -$150-$200 per child
·       7 micro-loans - $200--$500 depending on the business start up costs
·       5 -7 training sponsorships for persons of disability including housing -$500  per student

We combine the gifts of many donors to fulfill this wish list. Please send your cheques made out to Journeys of the Heart in either US or CDN funds to:

#10-115 Upper Ganges Road, Salt Spring Island, BC, V8K 2Y3, Canada

Inquiries: or 1-250-537-4125

 And..come along with us on our blog at on a Journey of the Heart.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

An Inspiration

Last January, when we first arrived in Ho chi Minh City, we met Harry Pham Van Anh. He organized the book fair that we did under the auspices of Global Village Foundation. Harry's group is actually ECO Vietnam.

Since January we have been corresponding with this tireless young man, who has told us the stories of his many projects. He is very involved with the emerging concept of service education and has worked with teams of volunteers from Vietnamese and Singaporean universities.

His latest project was no mean feat. With a large crew of medical professionals and young volunteers he travelled to remote regions of Bac Lieu in the Mekong Delta. The team braved torrential rains as they motored by sampan down the river in torrential rains, to deliver free medical assessments to the Kho Me, one of Vietnam's ethnic tribes.

There are 100 pictures of the project....the crew huddling under tarps to keep themselves and the medical supplies dry.....scrambling ashore through the muck.....organizing the event and setting up systems....happy, grateful faces of the villagers.....all on ECO's Face Book page.

It is our fond wish at Journeys of the Heart that we might be able to work with Harry again in the future.

In the meantime, we wish him all the best and send our encouragement to him and his team for a job well done.

It is wonderful to witness this new movement of Vietnamese helping Vietnamese, when in the past there has been such a reliance on foreign NGO's to solve their social issues.

Thanks Harry.


Monday, June 24, 2013

The Reaching Out Tea House is Number One!

It is incredible to think that there are 278 restaurants and coffee shops in Hoi An on the central coast of Vietnam. True, this lovely heritage town, has become a tourist haven but to us it is "home" where we live and work every year and this number seems overwhelming.

Even more delightfully surprising is that the Reaching Out Tea House, (opened in January) has, after five short months achieved the rating of Number One on Trip Advisor.

The staff at the Tea House have consistently delivered excellent food and service and our customers are recognizing that quality.

But most heartening of all is that almost every review describes the tranquility of the unique experience of silent service and the graciousness of the speech and hearing impaired staff.

We at Journeys of the Heart could not be prouder! This new social enterprise has proven to be a magnet for travellers looking for a unique and traditional Vietnamese experience and most importantly has created work experiences for the disabled staff to interact with the hearing world and share their pride in
being part of this success story.

Check out the Reaching Out Tea House on Trip Advisor and Facebook to see more pictures and read the reviews!!!!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Book Launch promotes Journeys of the Heart

At last!!!! We have launched our book Back To Vietnam: Tours of the Heart.

 Friends and neighbours on our home island Salt Spring, on the west coast of British Columbia, Canada gathered to wish us well and hear a few stories from our recently published book.

The lovely Adina Hildebrandt of Salt Spring Books, along with her husband Andrew hosted the event. Adina is a lover of books and theatre and her gracious opening of the evening set the tone for an evening of listening, laughter and insightful questions from the audience.

Arthur Black, a legend in Canadian literature and broadcasting had endorsed our book, even though his first read of Back to Vietnam was a rough copy, spiral bound. He introduced us and our memoir with a sprinkling of his usual humour.

Bruce and I both read passages from the book and then we had a question and answer session. Of course there were questions about the "American" war, Agent Orange, the current political situation in Vietnam etc. But we also were pleased that some of the members of the audience were very interested to know about the work we do ...our Journeys of the Heart....and how one might help. We received promises of donations, more promised hand knit bandages AND even some interest in coming to Vietnam to help out!

What more could we ask? Friends, family and neighbours were there to wish us well with our book, to share our excitement and sense of accomplishment and most of all to support our continuing work in Vietnam.

Thank you Salt Spring for a super book launch!

You can order a copy at

Friday, May 31, 2013

Women Helping Women and Girls

I just received this video from Go Philanthropic. Lydia Dean put it together to inform others of the work done by Children's Education Foundation and Linda Hutchinson-Burn. As you will hear in the clip, GoPhil supports several of the girls in Linda's program.

Many of our donors to Journeys of the Heart also sponsor the education of girls ( and a few deserving boys too!) who would be unable to go to school without financial help. The irony in Vietnam is that although education is "mandatory", the annual fees are sometimes too much for poor families to pay so children stay at home to work at a very young age. Some end up on the streets, some are trafficked.

At Journeys of the Heart, we are thrilled to be part of the network of dedicated people who get their hearts and heads around publishing the plight of these young students.

In January, February and March of this year we worked with CEF and Linda DeWolf of GoPhi. You may remember our posts about the day we visited the students in Da Nang who have been relocated from the leprosy village of Hoa Van and another post about an art day. We also co-operated with another NGO, Global Village Foundation who were generous in sharing information about library books for school kids.

Such a powerful thing this synergy! Thanks to Linda, Linda, Lydia and Le Ly...we appreciate our partners! Click on the link to see the video.

Email if you would like to sponsor a child.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Miss Saigon

For whatever reasons we had never seen the musical Miss Saigon. Yesterday though we made the trek over to Victoria for the matinee.

The moment the curtain rose my reaction was visceral and conflicted. Initially it struck me as strange to trivialize the events leading up to the fall of Saigon in 1975 with singing and dancing. We have read too much and seen too much coverage of this startling event, with hundreds, no thousands, of terrified Vietnamese being abandoned by the Americans to settle into the musical telling of this tragedy.

Lost in the whorehouse scenes was the desperation of young soldiers who had lost themselves, their moral compasses and their humanity.

At the opening scene of the second act, the tragic consequences of stolen moments of love amidst the insanity of war, the Amerasian children left behind, became the focus. The floodgates opened and I could not staunch the tears that flowed for the rest of the production. These kids were born into a society that regarded mixed blood children as the dust of life.

It was a curious thing to sit in a theatre in downtown Victoria, with my veteran husband for whom this was so much more than a musical production. It was a strange thing to experience the juxtaposition of raucous and sometimes humorous numbers with tragic scenes of loss. I wondered how many people sitting there in the dark were crying as they clapped?

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Celebrations at the Reunion of 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry

For more than twenty years some of the men who served in Vietnam with the 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry have come together to renew the bonds of brotherhood which were forged so many years ago on the battlefield.

These reunions have fostered a trip back to Vietnam for some of the guys, where they saw Vietnam as a "country, not a war."

Many in the group have also strongly supported our work with VAVA with financial donations which enable victims of Agent Orange and their families to start up home based businesses. Along with the self sufficiency which comes with the success of these businesses, pride and self worth grow in conjunction with their independence. Thanks to these veterans (some of whom have also suffered the effects of Agent Orange and are compensated by the VA) Vietnamese who receive no compensation from either the US or Vietnamese governments are altering their lives for the better.

It was also an occasion to celebrate the publication of our memoir Back to Vietnam. Lou Hennies who gave us a back cover endorsement based on his reading of an early draft, was pleased to get his hands on the "real thing".

The reunion was a coming together of our love for Vietnam and the work that we do, with the support and camaraderie of the men who fought there with Bruce more than 40 years ago.

And these, ladies and gentlemen, are the women who are the strength behind the men of the 4th/ 23rd! This beautiful bunch have served on the home front lo these many years and they deserve our salutes!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Look at Him Now!

We first met Vinh when he was about six years old. He lives with other disabled children and adults in a home near Quy Nhon in Central Vietnam. On that first visit, we did not know that we would continue to see him over the years, but it was love at first sight. Vinh was active, playful and openly engaged with our tour group of foreigners.

The second time we visited the "orphanage" as these institutions are called in Vietnam whether they house youngsters or seniors, Vinh was the Alpha kid! First in line to get his A&W Root Bear, first in line to get his face painted and first up to play a tune on his new harmonica.

It was a couple of years before Bruce went back on another Tour of Peace. Vinh had grown like a weed AND he was showing off his skills on the computer key board! We do not know how Vinh lost his lower arms and hands but we fear that it was unexploded ordnance.

 Below are the latest shots of Vinh in May of last year. Just look at him now!!! Such a handsome boy and as exuberant as ever. The pen is being used to measure his arms for possible prosthesis.

We are thrilled that each time we return, Vinh looks well cared for and is getting an education. He seems to have adapted to his disability without much special training or equipment. One of the tour members is pursuing contacts in the field of prosthetic production....hopefully Vinh will be a recipient of a generous westerner's expertise.

In the meantime we can hardly wait to see him again to see his huge smile. As he grows we are reminded of the passing of the now since our first trip Back To Vietnam.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Blog Becomes a Book

Five years ago, the writing of posts for this blog and letters home from Vietnam, which we have called our "missives", led to the writing of our book. 

Back to Vietnam: Tours of the Heart chronicles Bruce's experiences as a young soldier during the war  and our shared experiences in returning to Vietnam to serve on a number of humanitarian projects. 

The book is now available through:
where you can see more about the book, read excerpts, learn about the authors and read some early praise. 

The Gift of Language Shared

With some of our "extra" funds this year, we were able to order five copies of the Oxford Picture Dictionary, English/Vietnamese version.

Four  copies of this excellent dictionary will be used by Children's Education Foundation in the literacy  program and one will go to a very deserving young man, who aspires to improve his income by learning to speak English well enough to be promoted from his job as a gardener.

Quyen and Binh also ordered some for their staff in Reaching Out. 

Thanks again to all who donated "undesignated" funds. This is no end to the places where these funds can be applied, and it is  fabulous to be able to respond when a need is articulated.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Messages From the Grandmothers

We have seen many wars in Vietnam and known many hardships. Our trials are etched on our faces and our bodies are now weary. We pray that our granddaughters will have an easier life and that through education they will be able to earn a good living and not be reliant on selling what they can each day in the street as we have done our whole lives.

Old Friends Benefit from Journeys of the Heart Donor Generosity

This year we have been able to do a few "extra" things while here in Hoi An. Because of the generosity of our donors we came with some undesignated funds.

It has been wonderful to be able to respond to needs in the moment.

When we visited our long time friends at the Hoi An Home for the Aged, we asked them what they would like as a treat. Overwhelmingly their response was face cloths and shampoo.

Quyen helped us source the facecloths and shampoo at the market so that we could get the Vietnamese price. We showed up at the home a few days later, packing 100 facecloths and 100 bottles of shampoo.

My special friend is Huyen is on my right in the photo. She remembers me from year to year and always loves the pictures that we share with her of our home on Salt Spring, our kids, the boat etc.

Bruce's special friend and everyone else's who visits the home is the ebullient Ut. Bruce and I met Ut on our first TOP trip in 2006. She loves Jess, the TOP founder and Duc Anh our guide who also return every year...but Bruce comes in a close second for the affection of this brave woman who lost her legs in a land mine explosion.

Thank you all, especially those who gave Journeys of the Heart funds and said, "You will know where there is a need."

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A Good News Story

Remember Chuong? This is the young man who is mentally challenged and whose parents have helped him establish a flower growing business with a micro-loan from VAVA and generous Journeys of the Heart donors.

We were anxious to know how he did with sales just prior to Tet, when consumers are buying flowers for their homes and to offer at the pagodas and shrines for their ancestors. The competition is fierce with hundreds of sellers lining the streets in Hoi An and the neighbouring city of Da Nang.

This morning we had coffee with Phuong ( top right in picture below) and her friend Yen from the Red Cross.

As we sat in the garden of the new Reaching Out Teahouse, we heard the story. Chuong's parents decided to sell all of the flowers wholesale. Although of course the prices were lower, they did not have to join the hundreds of others on the street AND they sold the entire crop!! The loan can now be paid back in full, with enough left over to refinance the business for next year.

We love this kind of success story!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Tet Lunar New Year

We participated in some of the rituals of Tet, the Vietnamese Lunar New Year again this year. The buildup to Tet includes the preparation of traditional foods such as banh Tet, a rice and bean curd concoction which is wrapped in banana leaves and boiled for 12 hours. The resulting cake lasts for days and is sliced for consumption at most meals. There is a real art to wrapping the banh Tet and these experts show us the technique every year at our home stay.

Tet morning we went to our family's house for a traditional breakfast and then off to the pagoda where we gave thanks for all of our blessings, paid homage to the Buddha and in return for a small donation, received our fortune on a little piece of paper in a red envelope from one of the monks. Our fortunes were for good health and good fortune....we'll take it!!!!

A tradition at Tet is also to give "lucky money" envelopes to young children and elders...but we also include the staff at Vuon Trau who take such good care of us every year.

Then off we went to the beach for three days. What bliss. We avoided all of the boisterous parties with too much "mot, hai, ba, YO!" ( one, two three drink!) and did what Grandparents do all over the world.