Friday, March 16, 2012

Lepers, service, and pictures

Week Nine
Community Service
     There is a way I like to do this service work that creates as little fuss as possible.  At the Loving House I like to come in and begin the process of helping, whatever that may be.  It is much more difficult to be honored for my small contribution.  I would rather just get to work.  My experience at Loving house this week was an exercise in gracefully accepting being honored.  We were invited into the reception room and Bernie and I were given flowers from their garden.  Then the nuns lead the residents in several songs, it was beautiful.  I did not understand what was happening or why because I go there to be of service.  After the reception we got to do the nails of our favorite women and enjoy their wonderful sense of humor.  As we were leaving one of the nuns thanked me and pointed out toward the garden and said something about our next visit.  My hearing is so bad that I have no idea what she said.  Something will happen in the garden on Monday.
     Our visit to the leper village outside of Da Nang was filled with paradox.  Our director Ken Herrman and his wife Susan joined us for this trip.  We were also accompanied by our resident director My Hoa and some of the staff to help facilitate loading and unloading.  The program serves about one hundred and seventy people by delivering rice, noodles, cooking oil, other food, and medical supplies.  In order to do this we load all the supplies onto a truck first.  The next step is we drive across the city to meet the boat.   All of the supplies are unloaded from the truck down a steep embankment and loaded onto a fishing boat.  Then we take the boat across the bay for about half an hour so the supplies can be unloaded on the beach and distributed to the people.  We visited the village school while the staff unloaded the boat.  The kids are amazing; they all sang songs for us.  The fourth and fifth grade classes were practicing the liberation dance and song which they preformed for us.  It was very well done.   The pre-school class was extremely energetic.  As soon as our director Ken walked into the room one of the kids grabbed him and stuffed him into the little playhouse they have there.  The same little guy had his picture taken with me and decided he would climb on for a horsey ride.  I think he is a leader in training.

     After the visit to the school we went back to the beach and began the process of distributing the food and supplies.  The village Chief and his aid have a log book with all the resident’s names.  As each person was called forward either Victor or I would hand them a large box with noodles cooking oil and rice.  Some of the people had family members bring them their supplies due to the effects of the leprosy.  After our distribution was complete we somehow managed to get back into the fishing boat and headed back to Da Nang.  The people were great and apparently this program is the only help they get.  They are also able to grow some food for the village in the beautiful secluded area where they live.  The government plans to move the people of the village into a government housing project so the land they live on can be turned into a resort.  I think it would show wisdom to leave them where they are but what do I know.

     Our first Agent Orange home visit was the family of a young man eighteen years of age.  He had a birth defect that made him short and made his arms much shorter than normal.  He is in eleventh grade in school and wants to study to be a computer programmer.  He has friends and is doing okay even with his physical limitations.  The family does not have much but with the help of the program they are doing okay.  Our second visit was to the family of a seventeen year old girl.  She is okay physically however she has mental problems and cannot take care of herself at all.  Once again with the help of the program the family seems to be getting by okay. 
     We had a special home visit this trip.  We visited the family of a little boy named Phat.  This little guy was in the 2008 video Making Peace With Viet Nam.    When the video was made Phat almost died and was taken to the hospital by the program staff.  Today Phat is about four years old and is not in danger of dying.  However Phat is severely disabled and has many problems affecting his growth and health.  The family is doing okay with help from the program.   Seeing families that are working hard and getting the most out of the small contribution from this program I realize a little help here in Viet Nam goes a very long way.  The people of Viet Nam can take just a small amount of help and get the most out of it.
     Tuesday’s English class was the last one for Bernie.  Our topic of discussion was; “if you were showing someone around your city (Da Nang) what would you want them to see?”  It was a great discussion with a lot of input from everyone.  The object of the class is for them to do the talking.  Asking them to talk about their city really got them going.  During Bernie’s time here the class came to really enjoy having her with us and gave her little gifts when we stopped for coffee after class.  On Thursday the class asked how she was and where she was.  She was of course flying over the Midwest US at that time.  A former student of the program, John joined us for Thursday’s class.  Our topic was; “ten things I am thankful for.”  While I started with the important stuff I also added in some goofy stuff (thankful that hearing aids do not stick out like water buffalo horns) so they could be light with it if they wanted to.  Well this is Viet Nam.  Everyone is thankful for their ancestors, their parents, and their village.  The young people of Viet Nam may be influenced by western gadgets but they have a strong sense of pride in where they come from.  While I help them with English pronunciation they teach me about connections, family, and the ancestors.  Priceless.
     If you feel called to send a little help to the people here be aware that it will go right into the hands of the people who need it most, the ones no one else is helping.
     After seeing what I have seen here I have no idea how I will ever be the same again.  I probably won't.
It is paradox in paradise after all.  Next vacation visit beautiful Viet Nam.
Hen gap lai

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