I finally got to meet Chuck, an American Vietnam Veteran who invited Angela & I to spend Thanksgiving in Da Nang. For a Vietnamese adoptee who was brought up in London; this was a surreal but amazing experience!
Our first stop was having a Thanksgiving lunch at the Bread of Life, which is a lovely restaurant, owned by Americans that trains disabled Vietnamese people in the restaurant business. Chuck introduced us to his friend & work colleague who happened to be Ameriasian & had returned to Vietnam. It just so happened that he also owned a home in Go Vap & he kindly invited us to have a Thanksgiving in the evening once we finished our itinerary.
Our next stop was to meet Ms. Hien who is the President of Danang Association for Agent Orange Victims. Ms. Hien was so lovely & reminded me of Co Loan who is the Director of my old orphanage (Go Vap), very kind & gentle yet very strong & determined. We then went on to visit the Da Nang airbase which has been closed off as it is contaminated with Agent Orange. We all had terrible headaches & felt sick from standing on there for just a few minutes. Ms. Hien shouted at Angela & I to hurry up & get off the site as we are young & want to have children. In the evening, I must admit, I did throw up! I know this may sound crazy but I felt a strong urge to visit the site as I’ve been helping the children who have been affected by AO; I knew the risks and some part of me wanted to stand there and challenge Monsanto & Dow to come & stand there too! It does make me wonder what they would say if I did challenge them to stand on the hotspots then volunteer with the children who have AO… Perhaps they would then give in & compensate the victims… but knowing how much Monsanto is good at getting out of court cases, I doubt it very much indeed!
Ms. Hien then took us to the new centre she created for the children affected by Agent Orange and I was amazed at what she had built for them! The centre has workshops & teachers but needs more aid & funding to help sustain it. I loved her passion & sustainable development ideas, so was more than happy to assist in any way. Luckily I was carrying the donations with me, so was able to hand over money for pigs & chickens to the centre. Chuck was such a gentleman & agreed to update Angela & I when they had been bought.
Once we had finished at the centre, Ms. Hien took us to visit a poor family who had been affected by Agent Orange. I’d like to think I was healthy & fit, but oh boy, walking up to their home showed me that I really needed to exercise! Their home was at the top of a hill so we had to walk over uneven land & streams… Once we got to the top a motorbike came which carried a little boy who had cerebral palsy & who had the cutest smile ever! We went inside the small home & a little old lady greeted us; she appeared far older than her years & once I saw her carry another son out by herself, I understood why. The bedroom in which the other son slept smelt of urine, but I could see that this lady did everything to keep the home as clean as possible; it was just that her other son was completely bedridden & could not move by himself. Angela, Ms. Hien, Chuck & I then handed over some of the aid we brought with us from London & America. What touched my heart was how appreciative the young CP boy was with all of the items, and in particular the handmade teddy bears that our Scottish donors, Anne & Joan Laing (mother & grandma of my VVN volunteer Jennifer) had knitted with so much love & care! That little boy embraced the teddy bear & he was overjoyed to just hold it in his arms. So many kids in developed countries get the latest electronic video games, but to see him play with his teddy bear just melted my heart! In fact I completely fell for that little boy and he was quite a whiz with my camera too. From the position of the small home, I could tell that a wheelchair would not have been any use, so asked the family what would actually help them. Their first response was a cow, so we handed the money over to Ms Hien & once again Chuck said he would be there for the exchange & update us. It was time to leave the family and saying tambiet was very hard but I know I will return to visit them & extend the Vietnam Volunteer Network’s aid to more poor Agent Orange families. Ms Hien then took us back to her office where she gave Angela, Chuck & I receipts as well as made us members of her organisation. I do hope that we can provide more aid to her organisation as well as volunteers; in the interim I can at least do my part in highlighting the amazing work that her organisation does.
It was time to eat again so Chuck took us round to his friend’s home. I absolutely loved his friend for making us feel so at home. In addition, it was so lovely to see that he had also invited all of his employees to his beautiful home to participate in Thanksgiving. The food was very delicious as him mum had cooked it and you could see how much love & care had gone into making this meal as she knew in advance that Angela was a vegetarian. As I was adopted & sent to London, England, I do not celebrate Thanksgiving as that’s an American celebration. However, I truly loved participating in this celebration as during my time in Da Nang, I was made to feel like part of the family & met a lot of amazing people who gave of themselves every day.
Thank you to our following donors, without your help I would not be able to help these Agent Orange victims: Vietnam Volunteer Network, Angela Rauscher (& work colleagues), Reaching Out & Artists For Orphans.
A special thank you to Angela, Chuck & Ms. Hien!
I you would like to volunteer or donate to help the Agent Orange victims we support, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Together we can make a difference!
Love & light,
Kim Nguyen Browne
CEO & Found
UK T: +44 (0) 7813 112216