Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Almost There!

Once again we are counting the weeks and days until our departure for Vietnam. This will be our 8th Journey of the Heart, our 10th trip to Vietnam. For Bruce it will be his 18th trip...six with TOP Tours of Peace Vietnam Veterans and then of course two tours of duty during the war. That is a lot of miles travelled!

Funds have been coming in to Journeys of the Heart, by mail and hand cheque even etched on the trunk of a friend's car, during one of those typical Salt Spring Island encounters...we were strolling home from our garden plot with our basket of vegetables and she just emerging from a game of bridge at a neighbourhood house. We did trade some fresh chard and basil for a most generous gift for the library at Children's Education Foundation. A link for this organization is on the sidebar of this post.

Bruce's retired buddies of the 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry have once again donated a goodly sum and we will be able to expand the micro loan program which we initiated with VAVA (Vietnamese Association for Victims of Agent Orange). We look forward to meeting a new liaison at VAVA in Hoi An. Our lovely friend Phuong has recently been married and has retired. We will miss her sunny smile and her co-operation and translating expertise. It was always a treat to work with Phuong.

Miss Hoa is still the director and we look forward to cups of tea again in her tiny office at the Red Cross Centre.

Our new interest is in helping Same Same but Different...a local Vietnamese organization which not only delivers aid to locals in Central Vietnam, but now also builds school in remote mountain villages. We have been able to send funds for these school building projects, thanks to the generosity of retired teachers and Sunday School children in Kenora, Ontario and some dear friends too!

This fund could do with a little more help!!! 

So many of these mountain villages have, as you can see in the photo, dirt floors and the walls and roofing are not weather proof by any means. Below a picture of a finished school, the crew and the mountain of food, clothing and school supplies that were packed up the mountain by the youthful group.

Of course we will be working again with Reaching Out. Look how we have grown. When we started working in 2008 with Reaching Out, a social enterprise providing skill training and meaningful employment for the disabled, the "family" was about a third this size. The new Tea House location has opened up more opportunities for the hearing impaired. There are very clever seamstresses working at the craft shop, so the lovely ladies at the Tea House have fresh new uniforms every couple of months.

We look forward to working with Binh and Quyen and a young consultant from Singapore this year. Bryan has been contracted to update the website and lay out a social media strategy. Facebook and our #1 rating thereon has drawn the attention of thousands of international travellers to the business.

The needs for Reaching out have shifted, but two areas still need some financial assistance. Scholarships for new trainees AND their own charitable foundation, which reaches out to the disabled in the community who are not as fortunate as the Reaching Out crew, could always use an infusion of donor dollars from across the sea. Journeys of the Heart will be happy to deliver your gift to this ground breaking organization which has proven that small, grass roots, self-help groups can show by example that an empowered, independent life IS possible for the disabled in Vietnam where legislative changes and social support are slow in emerging.

So...we are almost there in terms of funding....but of course we would welcome more gifts.

Many, many warm thanks to all who have already contributed to the 2015 Journeys of the Heart fundraising campaign. Your support makes all of our work possible. 

Hopefully we will reach a few more kind folks before our departure in mid-September. 


Friday, July 3, 2015

Annual Appeal

Journeys of the Heart Annual Appeal 2015

Once again we are planning our return to Vietnam. Since 2006, with financial help from many friends and family we have been able to change the lives of a few of the thousands of disenfranchised still recovering from the war and the critical conditions after that war.

Schools for Remote Villages

The children in remote villages in the central mountains of Vietnam are often hungry when our friends from the Ong Van group, known as "Same Same but Different", travel the arduous trails through the jungle to visit them.

Their schools, if there are any, are no more than shacks and books and supplies are meagre. But, not only does SSBD climb the trails to bring food and warm clothing they also haul in the materials to build new classrooms. 

Thanks to generous donors, a retired teachers association and a church school class in Ontario and kind friends of Journeys of the Heart has been able to put funds into the hands of the builders. We hope to do the same again when we go to Vietnam in September. Schools and school supplies bring hope to the destitute for a better future.

School Tuition for Girls from Poor Families

We have worked with the Children's Education Foundation for many years. the mission of this grassroots NGO is to provide school fees (and additional support for their families such as medicine,bicycles and a mobile library) so that girls can remain in school and have more choices as they grow. The threat of child trafficking is real for girls who end do not stay in school. 

When in Vietnam, we visit these children on behalf of their sponsors and we are privileged to receive their appreciative smiles and to see them prosper despite the conditions under which they live.

Micro-Loans for Victims of Agent Orange

Friends of Journeys of the Heart, including Bruce's fellow veterans of the 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry, have annually contributed funds to seed a new micro-loan program with VAVA (Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange. This loan program allows victims and their families to develop a home based business and through independence gain self-worth.

A woman who used her loan to start a home based knitting company, showed her gratitude by knitting scarves for our donors. 

The payback rate of the loans is high and as we had hoped the program is becoming self-sustaining. However, There is still a long list of loan applications and we would love to be able to help them start a business too.

Reaching Out, a Social Enterprise

We began our volunteer work in Vietnam with Reaching Out in 2008. Since then it has grown to more than 70 disabled staff in two locations, a craft shop and a tea house where speech any hearing impaired staff serve in silence in an ancient house in Old Town, Hoi An.

Our work has evolved into roles as advisors on business matters, however we still support the trainee scholarship program so that more people of disability can join this successful team as empowered and  integrated individuals. 

Your contributions have been and will be delivered directly to the people and or groups who are "on the ground" in Vietnam. We love and trust the people who year after year have welcomed us and are so appreciative of your gifts. 

Cheques can be sent to:

Journeys of the Heart

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

Cam On! Thank You!