**Note: I was having some serious technical difficulties with my web browser freezing which hindered my ability to post new updates. Thank you for your patience 🙂
It has been very important to me that I really “experience” it all first and take pictures later. My first week was spent absorbing it all (very overwhelming) and getting a feel for this village. I spent lots of time interacting with the staff and children, making my own observations, hence I have waited to post photos. If you scroll over each picture, I have added a caption for you.
First of all, I want you all to know a little bit more about this “friendship village” I am volunteering at here in Hanoi, Vietnam. This sanctuary for victims of Agent Orange was founded by a man named George Mizo, a U.S. war veteran who, while experiencing the horrors of the Vietnam War, became a peace activist and widely spoke out against the war in Vietnam. He experienced many health issues which have been associated to his exposure to Agent Orange. As a way to give back and to help those that the U.S. government still has not, he helped create a sanctuary for both young children and Vietnam war veterans to live, play, and receive medical care, emotional support and vocational training so that they may lead a somewhat normal life when they leave their safe haven.
The children here suffer from a wide-range of disabilities such as autism, cerebral palsy, down-syndrome, deformation and many mental disabilities. Some are even blind and deaf. Children and veterans stay for different time periods and don’t pay anything.
The village currently has about 50 war veterans (live in their own building on site/ 2-4 per room). It also houses over 100 kids/ young adults in 5 different homes (8 bedrooms per house with 2-4 beds per room). The situations vary and there are many without parents. There is a library, a medical center, a chicken coop and many pigs on site as well as many organic gardens throughout the village that are used for meals. The teachers and staff have their own garden to bring fresh organic produce home to their families. The children have a place to play after school and classes are just around the corner from their homes which is very convenient.
There are 6 special-ed classrooms and one of them is used to teach the children about hygiene as well as provides basic cooking lessons ( I help here 3 times a week). I also spend at least 2 days a week in classroom #1 helping my teacher with a variety of duties. This class is the most challenging in the sense of the variety of disabilities, learning styles and ages, making it very overwhelming for the teacher to handle all 16 of them on her own. Four classes are dedicated to vocational training rooms and include sewing/tailoring, embroidery,artificial flower making and computer class. Stay tuned for more about my “role” here at the village…