Monday, July 15, 2013

Visit to Association Entraide Vietnam Huế Suisse (Swiss Association in Support of Huế, Vietnam)

After we left the FHF shelter, we took a bus ride to An Tây for a brief visit the Swiss Association in Support of HuếVietnam. The first thing we saw when we enter the shelter were the beautiful Phoenix flowers trees, or Hoa Phượng. Hoa Phượng are brightly-colored flowers that symbolize summer and academics, and are a common sight in Vietnam. Some of the other volunteers spent much of their time speaking with the founder Mrs. Trần Thị Tri, an 83 year old woman from Switzerland. Over a plate of ice cold jackfruit, she told them of the history of the shelter and her struggles founding it.

Two-thirds of the children in the shelter are orphans, and the other third are in particularly disadvantaged situations—several come from households that are in extreme poverty or in a family with 10+ siblings, making it difficult for their parents to support them. At the center, the children receive schooling and vocational training so that they will be able to sustain themselves when they are out on their own. Among the skills they learn is sewing, and several sell pouches they make, saving the money for their futures.

While we were at the center, several of us played with the children upstairs. Since the kids were older, we spent a lot of time playing a game we liked to call “Wa!” The game involves quick reflexes and coordination, and is great for large groups. Kevin in particular spent a lot of time playing with the older kids and even one of the teachers.

We distributed snacks and notebooks to the children, and had a lot of fun meeting all of them. One little boy in particular had so much energy that he even challenged Andrew to a push up contest! (Clearly the younger of the two won.)

Many of the kids enjoyed being chased by the other VMO members. Poor Sung was chasing a boy for almost a full hour!

As our visit ended, Mrs. Trần took us around the property, showing us their garden and the stunning view they had from the top of the hill. It was a lovely end to a beautiful day.

-- submitted by Robin So, UC Berkeley

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