The state of shock started to subside as seeing some of the children during my first week broke my heart. I realized they were going about their days and that my internal reaction was doing nothing but upsetting and affecting me. Also, understanding the cultural differences and seeing things in classrooms that were shocking at times and realizing that they are out of my control and not for me to change. That’s just it. I had to really realize my “purpose” here is not to change the cultural ways or to step on any toes. My “purpose” is to use my heart to spread unconditional love to the heart of all the children and to use my hands to serve in whatever way possible. I don’t have a medical degree nor do I know how to speak Vietnamese so I had to use my intuition to guide me. I learned to focus on a completely new way of communicating (non-verbally) on a day-to-day basis and that the children can really understand by reading my facial reactions and the eclectic ways I would describe things. They could definitely feel my energy and intention.
My schedule now started at 2:00pm (I made this executive decision and you will soon understand why). I would spend an hour in class #1 (the naughty class) and then an hour upstairs helping another teacher in the hygiene class/ light cooking class. There was an area where I would sit on a plastic chair and help the kids to wash their hair, brush their teeth and teach them the importance of washing their hands as they go from in their nose, to their pants, to their mouth in less than 10 seconds. After class, the kiddos grab my hand and we all walk together back to the homes. I would go from house to house and see which “house mother” needed help feeding those who couldn’t feed themselves. There would be at least 3-4 per home who needed help and would eat about 30 minutes before the others, who have dinner at 5pm in a cafeteria type setting, one side for the children and the other for the veterans. I also made sure to play some soccer or basketball with them and the other volunteers before dinner, getting them running around when possible.
Most of the volunteers would go home around 4-4:30 as the majority (the max on site was 7) arrived for morning classes and stayed for afternoon classes, which I experienced during week 1 and it was quite a day considering the nature of the work we are all doing (my hat goes off to anyone who works in the mental health or physical disability fields). I decided I would be best suited helping in the evenings as well. My first evening, I chose a home and just walked in and smiled. When the “house mother” and children saw me, their faces lit up. Without words, she literally pointed to 4 girls, gave me a pile of clothes, one towel and pointed to the shower. I rolled up my sleeves and started washing. These girls were not babies and ages ranged from 10-22. Some were so tiny under their clothes that it broke my heart. I started to hum while washing them and giving them a nice head massage while shampooing, as that is something that I enjoy. Here I was, bathing young adults who couldn’t on their own. Talk about a humbling experience.
The next day, a different “house mother” saw me walking after dinner and pointed for me to help at her house. Again, I was given a pile of clothes, one towel and she pointed to those who needed a shower. I washed 3 young adult boys who couldn’t take care of themselves. One of them was Chou (below), who I would walk around the property with, as he usually lays on the floor or in a chair in his own world so I take him out to “feel” the world since he can’t “see” it. This continued for my final 2 weeks at the village. Some of the kids would just lock eyes and that said it all, another would touch my cheek (a girl who kept her hand in a fist all day), others would hug me after their shower as I wrapped them in a towel and loved on them as a mother would. In these moments, I realized my purpose here. They knew why I was here and what I was giving was clearly being felt. Making a difference doesn’t require a specific amount of “time” rather the “quality’ of your time…
**Love, we sing about it dream about it (myself included) and it is truly a priceless and universal human desire. It is such a powerful energy that can only be felt with the heart. Each one of us arrived on this planet out of love (yes, I realize there are many other unfortunate circumstances however I am generalizing in this case). To love and to be loved requires no language. It is a big part of developing, especially having that nurturing, which unfortunately many here haven’t experienced. The “house mothers” do their best but it really is too much for them (20-30 per house) to keep up with cleaning, washing clothes and the children, some get left behind. I try to focus on giving one on one attention to each child and making a connection, which only required my time. I would walk around to each room and my heart would break when I would walk in and sees a child sitting on their metal cot-like bed, looking out a window or just sitting there, no one paying attention to him. I would tuck some in, give them hugs, put my hand on their knee and plant a seed of hope within their hearts and let them know they are loved, cared for and seen.**
In addition, I did a lot of dancing, teaching the girls to hula, the “Macarena” and eventually the boys would come join in (they could hear us laughing) when I would start the chicken dance which everyone loved. Oh, and when I decided to play “Gangnam Style,” I was literally in tears laughing as everyone became energized and would stand up and start the moves! I am grateful for these children, their acceptance of me and bringing out my inner child which made it easy for me to be completely goofy, creating funny dance moves and doing anything and everything to get a laugh out of them (you definitely would have wanted to be a mosquito on the wall or a gecko J).
Stay tuned for week # 3! It gets better better 🙂
Love & Laughter,