Hi everyone, I know it has been two weeks since we last updated this blog, and for all who have been patiently waiting for an update I sincerely apologize. The truth is that since our meeting with the two organisations operating here we have been extremely busy and by the end of the day we are both physically exhausted and at times emotionally exhausted as well.
As mentioned, our time here is spent between two organisations, the Degenhart foundation working out of America and the Hoi An Orphanage operated by the Vietnamese government. The Degenhart foundation has been operating in and around Vietnam for over 20 years and has been responsible for the placement of adopted children and community projects alike. We are here working on a Toy Library for poor and under privileged children. This entails the complete renovation of a room to be made suitable for the storage and display of the toys being sent from Australia and America. This may sound like an easy task but the room has been seriously neglected for some time, has mould and wall damage and has a leaking roof. The first thing Cha and I has to so was the sterilise all the mould with bleach then scrap of the paint from the walls which had been painted on top of mould which had been painted on a poorly prepared surface originally. When we looked at the room both Charlotte and I thought the building must have been at least 40 years old. We were very surprised to fine out it was just 10 years old. So the next thing to do was to collect the necessary equipment for the job. Sounds easy enough or so I thought. There is no one stop shop here. The lady helping us in the other part of the library had bought the paint for us and the rollers. I asked if she had a paint tray her response "just put the roller in the bucket and paint it onto the wall". From this point I new she had no idea what was involved and had never seen anyone paint before. We spent 3 days preparing the surface, scaping the walls to bare plaster, filling the holes with filler and then sealing the walls ready for painting. Our arms ached and we had blisters on our hands from where the cheap scrapers dug into our palms. We also sourced a small paint tray and a pole to attach to the rollers (the walls were 3.6 meters high) After a week we were very happy with the results and felt we could leave knowing it would remain in good condition for many years to come. We had the roof fixed and have organised for window seals to come from Australia to protect the equipment from water damage once they were here. All we needed now was the toys to arrive and the shelving to be delivered so we can erect and assemble.
It was the second Sunday here before we decided to see the Orphanage. It houses 73 children 17 who are disabled in some way. Ages ranging from infant to 18. We were horrified by the tour. Although there was help with the disabled children, they were being fed when we visited, they were lying on hard mats stinking of urine which they were covered it. The room reeked and made our children want to leave straight away. The other rooms were mildly better, no urine but at least 10 hard mats to a room. These opened into a concrete courtyard with rusty old swings and that was it. Our hearts sank. We both felt helpless in this environment. We asked the director of the orphanage how much they budgeted to feed each child and the response was shocking. Just 240,000 Dong, ($21 Aus, or $14US) per month. As a reference we are spending around 200,000 per day the five of us on food.
We thought maybe we should give money to help these children but learnt through research on-line the director had built her house with donations given by foreign nationals. What could we do. We decided the Tet festival was coming up which is like Xmas for the rest of us. We could buy new clothing for everyone of the 73 children, and that is exactly what we did.
The look on the kids' faces was priceless when the clothing vendors came to the orphanage and they could choose their clothes. It was true happiness and moved charlotte and myself with strong emotions of joy and extreme sadness. We must thank all those who generously gave money to us to help these children.
We both had sleepless nights for the next three days toying with emotions and wondering if adoption was a possibility. It would inexorably change the life of a child forever. Impossible to do directly from Australia but possible though France as a French citizen and then brought into Australia from there. Could we do it? Should we do it after all it was just one more mouth to feed, the kids would adapt and welcome in any new member we were both sure. We toyed with this dilemma, it exhausted us. Finally we decided now was not yet the time. Charlotte was always sure in her mind she wanted to adopt a child sometime in her life, I was always a little more reticent. I am less certain now about my conviction.
While we wait for the toys to arrive we have been keeping busy either at the orphanage playing with the children or at the toy library doing crafts with the kids or teaching them computing and English. We have developed a good routine, Cha goes in the morning with one or two kids, and I go in the afternoon with one or two. I have also started English classes at night. It keeps us busy.
We have 4 weeks left in Hoi An, but during that time we have Glenys coming over for a week and then Cha's grandparents from the 10th Jan until we leave Vietnam on the 29th . We will leave Hoi An around the 15th and continue touring further south. There is still plenty to do before then.