I stood in front of that small fence that was only keeping the children and me apart. Shocking. No, a word that means much more than shocking. Horrifying? Terrifying? What happened to these children? How were they surviving? These were my first thoughts of visiting the Hoa Binh Hospital, Tu Du or Peace Village.
After living in Vietnam for more than five years, I was very aware of the greatness of Agent Orange. (At the time of Vietnam’s war, the indigenous people weren’t aware of the chemical substances the American planes dropped in the forests of Vietnam. Unfortunately, the next generations had to suffer painfully because of the soldier’s ignorance at the time.)
â–º SEMI FINALIST 2012 TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
Since I go to an American School, in order to improve the bonds between America and Vietnam, I wanted to organize a club at our school to fundraise money to help these children who were born physically disabled just because of the war. The children I wanted to support were those who were living in Peace Village (this is on the third floor of the Hoa BInh Hospital).
After going up to the third floor, the sight that was lain out in front of me was shocking. These children were not only physically disabled, but were also children who couldn’t go on living without the help of the nurses: there was an eighteen year old boy’s head who head was growing so big that he could only lie down in one position; there was a four months old child who had no arms and legs to help her toss and turn, or even lie in a comfortable position; there were so many children who were tied up in cribs just because they couldn’t control their body. However, one thing these children all had in common was their smile. For those children who had their eyesight, whenever I went up to them to help them bathe, eat food, or even just to play, they smiled at me. Just by looking at these smiles, all my initial feelings disappeared and were replaced with happiness, warmth, and the wish that many people can know about this place and go volunteer. Since these children in Peace Village are those kids that were abandoned by their parents just because of their appearance, they don’t really understand what ‘love’ is. This is where I play my part.
Although I have been to quite a few countries, this was the first time I've ever founded a club to help children at a hospital. This is my very first travel volunteering. However, I don’t regret spending the time and money for this kind of travelling rather than going to a five star hotel and enjoying the luxurious accommodations. Although it was both physically and mentally arduous, because of giving in a little bit of my time, the children could feel love and joy. I plan to go there every month and share the happiness that I receive from my parents. At least when I'm there volunteering, I want them to experience everything normal children experience. Therefore, apart from the money I receive from sponsors, I try to bring toys and books.
Many people ask me why I still volunteer at this hospital when there is no profit for me. However, there are so many things I learn from these children that I cannot learn at school. These children have not only taught me kindness and love, but they have also taught me to look at the world with a brighter side. Disabilitiy taught me real love.
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