Volunteering at the Orphanage

Cu Chi Travel Blog

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Thao and me.

My words on this computer screen could NEVER ever describe the feelings and emotions that the orphanage experience offered.  You'll have to ask me in person to get an inkling of the power of this moment in time. 

Day #1: I showed up at the orphanage and met the director who was completely blind.  As a 10-year old boy, he was a victim of a land mine (from our sad war) while digging up a tree to build his family's house.  To see a young blind man running an orphanage is something quite powerful.

When I arrived on day #1, he excitedly informed me that the next two weeks were "Tet" - the Vietnamese New Year - and every year he takes the children to his family's farm house in the countryside.  We would be leaving in the morning.

Thao is adorable
....

And so, at 7am, I piled into the mini-van tuk tuk (truck) with 14 children and sped off to the middle of nowhere.

I spent the next 7 days living in a poverty-stricken rural farm village - in an open (no doors), one-room bamboo hut with a tin roof.  The hut consisted of one room - for everyone - all the children and the family.  One room for sleeping, eating, playing, talking.  This is where the lived - and now they had 17 visitors. 18 people slept in this room - the rest next door.  I was given "the bed" which was a hard wood plank that I shared with 4 kids.  Yes - I woke up in the middle of the first night laying in a puddle of fresh, warm kid-piss.  Nice.

The busride to the village
  Everyone else cuddled up on the floor to sleep. 

Every day and every night, I played with the kids.  I played with them inside, outside, on the road, at the neighbor's farm, down the dirt road, in the peanut fields, on the hammock, and everywhere the land allowed.  The closest neighbor was the farm next door - across the peanut fields.  It rarely got boring.  That might be because I had kids hanging on me at all times.  I observed their behavior and was sucked into the "family-life" of these kids.  They were one big family.  And, I became part of it - quickly. Each one's personality shined bright.  Tao was scared of the cows.  Vihn was in love with me and wouldn't let me go. Y was the cutest thing on the planet.

on the tuk-tuk minibus...
  They were magic.  My words can't explain this part.  And, each one of them had a story - the story of where they came from.

Together with the family, we took care of the 14 children.  For them to be out of the city and in the countryside - free to roam and explore and celebrate was magnificent.  Every night - bed time became a special moment of the day.  One-by-one each kid got tired and slowly passed out in our arms, on the patio, in the dirt, on the hammock - anywhere and everywhere.  And one-by-one, we picked them up and brought them to their sleep area. 

The family was simultaneously celebrating the New Year.  And, so there were visitors and special foods eaten all day.  THIS WAS THE HARDEST PART OF MY ENTIRE EXPERIENCE: The food.

Car rides put them to sleep. anyhow.
  The food was absolutely disgusting. I actually had a really hard time with this.  I was living on a poor farm in rural Vietnam where $1 was big money.  For breakfast they fed me porkskin salad, porridge with chicken hearts and homemade a fermented "wine" that tasted like vodka.  Yes - for breakfast.  And, yes - I yanked.  But, I pulled through and enjoyed every moment with the kids.

Some of them truly started to get attached to me - following me everywhere, crying when I played with someone else, fighting to sleep next to me.... It was powerful.  I have too much to try to explain and my words can't do it.  So, I'll just leave this to rest.  Ask me and I'll be more than thrilled to try and share.  I'll post more photos so that you can gather an idea of my "orphanage-on-a-poor-farm" experience.....

uzymay says:
I'm currently volunteering in Vietnam at a health clinic in Dalat and appreciate hearing your experiences! The kids are great!
Posted on: Feb 13, 2012
crazychictraveller says:
very touching..
Posted on: Mar 07, 2011
seeUaroundtheWorld says:
Very interesting! Very touching! Adorable kids! Thanks for sharing your experience! You're not talking about the goodbyes, but it seems to me that they might have been pretty difficult?
Posted on: Oct 04, 2008
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Thao and me.
Thao and me.
Thao is adorable
Thao is adorable
The busride to the village
The busride to the village
on the tuk-tuk minibus...
on the tuk-tuk minibus...
Car rides put them to sleep. anyho…
Car rides put them to sleep. anyh…
Thao is so cute.
Thao is so cute.
My Vietnamese orphanage family
My Vietnamese orphanage family
Thao with my hat
Thao with my hat
....and his infectious smile.
....and his infectious smile.
The house
The house
The yard
The yard
Beer with the family at 7am
Beer with the family at 7am
Im being adopted...
I'm being adopted...
14 kids in a mini tuk-tuk
14 kids in a mini tuk-tuk
My little Y looking out the window.
My little Y looking out the window.
What a punim.
What a punim.
Car rides put them to sleep. anywh…
Car rides put them to sleep. anyw…
So damn cute! Car rides put them t…
So damn cute! Car rides put them …
Anh and me.
Anh and me.
I think she had a crush...
I think she had a crush...
Breakfast chaos.
Breakfast chaos.
14 kids in the mini tuk-tuk bus.
14 kids in the mini tuk-tuk bus.
tuk tuk bus!
tuk tuk bus!
Y is amazing.
Y is amazing.
the bus ride
the bus ride
bus ride!
bus ride!
7 am breakfast with pork-skin sal…
7 am breakfast with "pork-skin sa…
Vinh and me.
Vinh and me.
Y and me.
Y and me.
Lunch at the orphanage
Lunch at the orphanage
The leaders: Kiet, Dominique and me
The leaders: Kiet, Dominique and me
The house we lived in.
The house we lived in.
Little Trang and Vihn.
Little Trang and Vihn.
Tao and the computer teacher, Domo…
Tao and the computer teacher, Dom…
playing around....
playing around....
self portraits.
self portraits.
Ahn and the hammock.
Ahn and the hammock.
Kiet and the kids.
Kiet and the kids.
Thao.
Thao.
The men of the family.
The men of the family.
Trang is a cutey.
Trang is a cutey.
Wang and Vihn.
Wang and Vihn.
Doing the dishes at the house.
Doing the dishes at the house.
Breakfast
Breakfast
the tuk-tuk minibus
the tuk-tuk minibus
bed time....
bed time....
my bed.
my bed.
Trang and Vihn.
Trang and Vihn.
Trang is so cute!
Trang is so cute!
Y is cute too!
"Y" is cute too!
Pork-skin salad! Sick.
Pork-skin salad! Sick.
Y on the swing
Y on the swing
Y smiles with her mouth open!
Y smiles with her mouth open!
Trang all curled up...
Trang all curled up...
Ahn at the table.
Ahn at the table.
Trang on the hammock
Trang on the hammock
Bush chilling....
Bush chilling....
Is he flipping me off....
Is he flipping me off....
Their bed!
Their bed!
Trang and Thao sleeping hand-in-ha…
Trang and Thao sleeping hand-in-h…
There wer 9 in the bed and the lit…
There wer 9 in the bed and the li…
playtime and cuddles...
playtime and cuddles...
My Kaoraoke debut!
My Kaoraoke debut!
Kiet - the Orphanage Director.
Kiet - the Orphanage Director.
Ahn and his lost tooth.
Ahn and his lost tooth.
Chillin on the hammock!
Chillin' on the hammock!
Evening time with my favorite kid…
this is the only way we actually …
Cu Chi
photo by: kumikob