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A visit to Cà Mau, South Vietnam  2014.08.09

After having stayed in Cà Mau for a few days which is nearly in the utmost south part of Vietnam, I returned back to Ho Chi Minh City. Cà Mau is the largest city in the province, but it is nothing compared to Ho Chi Minh or Hanoi. Next to that I was not staying in the city but at the countryside.
I stayed, just like 1,5 year ago, with the fam. Phᾳnh Vinh Quang. And what a warm welcome again and such a great hospitality.
Despite the language barrier, they do not speak English and I (still) do not speak Vietnamese, our sign language with hands and feet went very well. Also thanks to CamNhanh and Tuan who has arranged this amazing visit from Holland. Thank you for that!



 

A visit to Cu Chi, Free Education Project 2014.08.05

Wim and Verona are enjoying a well-deserved holiday after a beautiful period voluntarily work in Ho Chi Minh City and also I had a wonderful few days off.
In the meantime I have been doing things for Care4theKids in Vietnam. Last weekend I have been a few days at Cu Chi and I was amazed after seeing the work that has been done at the vegetable garden after 2 weeks. It is surprising how good and fast the vegetables are growing, morning glory, corn, lemongrass etc. This is also due to the second waterpomp that has been constructed to keep the garden moist.

After that I was picked up by the airport at 7.00 an extensive breakfast was waiting already for me at home! I have been spoiled during those days. I have eaten the most delicious things from fresh crab and shrimps (caught in the ditch across the house) to fish cookies, rice, soup and salads of which we do not know any of the vegetables in Holland. But also fresh chicken, it was a strange idea that I saw the chicken just walking around a few hours earlier. I just did not watch how they cut off his head or how the chicken got plucked (though I could hear it). And I have tasted so many fruits, fresh or in a drink. Unfortunately I do not know all the names anymore.
I spent my nights on a mattress at the ground underneath a mosquito net. Despite the net and rubbing myself thoroughly in with anti-mosquito I became a giant walking mosquito bump.
It is back to basic again because it is not that common that there is streaming water from the crane. You wash yourself again with the same water that has been catched in the same bucket again and you also flush the toilet with it.

 

Sister Dominique has been thinking about how the garden should be set up together with the playfield. She and sister Keotane are responsible for the garden maintenance. And as gardening is one of her interests that is no problem at all. She will coach the oldest boys in gardening and teach them how to cut the vegetables properly so they can grow further in the right way. Underneath the pictures in sequence of cultivation and the growth of the vegetables.

But that put aside… I was there of course to visit the 5 families where I have been last year with Ineke Vernimmen (photographer) to follow the daily life of Vietnamese children. From this photo-report the beautiful book Sống! Children in Vietnam, living with a future perspective, has been made and published.
We would like to thank the families by giving them all this book! And I can say from my heart that it was very pleasant, beautiful and thankful to do.
The families did not know in advance that we would come and it was therefore a big surprise.


 

During the weekend we have spoken intensively about the continuation of the cooperation.
The school is closed for three weeks no and as soon as the lessons are starting again also the lunch will then be provided. A few vegetables are well grown and can be used for consumption. But not all of them and the fish are also not big enough. The sisters will keep an eye on the savings of the lunch when they use the vegetables of the own garden.
As soon as this is sufficient (or when new sponsors has applied) we will start with an extra day lunch. For now the children will get beside the lunch twice a week a cup of milk that contributes to their health.



The first family, a mother with two daughters, lives across a small tiny river. To come there you need to cross it with a float.
When the mother noticed us (yes she recognized me) she ran to the float to meet us!

 

In a meeting it has been decided to continue the food program for Le Minh Tri (16), Nguyen Thanh Quy (17) and Nguyen Thi Quynh Nhu (15).
All three of them are doing well at school and they go to the next grade of the Secondary School. Le Minh Tri goes to grade 10, his father is now seriously ill that het takes care of him after school. Nguyen Thanh Quy  is in his last year, grade 12. He would like to study next year but he does not know if that is possible. He has no parents and lives with family that cannot afford these costs.

She was pleasantly surprised that I just! came by. When I at a certain moment grab the book out of my bag and I showed her the pictures of her daughters the mother became a little emotional. She is so proud that her daughters are in the book and that she may keep the book. Unfortunately she told us that the bicycle we donated has been stolen.

 

Nguyen Thi Quynh Nhu goes to grade 10, her father died and her mother re-married and left. Together with her younger sister she lives in a guesthouse. Knowing that her sister is going to marry and then also leaves, she has been looking for a job. She has been working in a restaurant until midnight. As a consequence her schoolwork suffered severely. In agreement with the sisters she stopped with the work and as her sister leaves we will look for a solution regarding a living space so she can finish her school.

The second family became a sad story… The moment that we walked into the house only the youngest boy (having a sad look in his eyes) en his grandmother (almost blind and deaf) were there. The grandfather was at the field to work, after some wandering around also the father came into the house.

 

Next to that Care4theKids will contribute the school fee for coming year to:
Duong Thi Thu Suong (12), grade 6 secondary school
Duong Thi Kim Ans(16) grade 9 secondary school
Tran Ngoc Quyns Nhu (8) grade 3 primary school
Ngo Ngoc Anh Thi (12) grade 7 secondary school

When I took the book out of my bag and we looked into it, page by page, I saw the little boy become more sad. It seemed he had difficulties with looking at the pictures. Father saw this as well and he told that the boy’s mother has left him. Apparently the mother has left them and took her other children with her and nobody knows where to.
Before we left I gave the little boy a big hug and let him feel that the book is for him. He did understood what I was trying to say and he took the book and put it right away between his own stuff. Nevertheless it did not satisfied me and I left with an unpleasant feeling.

 

The father of the first 2 girls has found work but earns not enough money yet to pay the costs for school.
Despite the fact that we with each other made great decisions to give children with less opportunities a better future in life it is always also severe. The grinding stories about the children are hard. For example the story about a family of which the father has died and the mother had to go into prostitution and also took her daughter in it. Fortunately the grandmother took care about the girl, but that is not the ideal situation. Granny is already old and has no income. And such a girl needs mother love… she is now in the Free Education Project.


The third family lived nearby . A family with a father, mother and two children. The oldest child in this family has been followed by us, at school and at home. About a year ago the father was very ill and the question that time was how long he would be living.

 

Or the story about two nephews, they both lost their mothers (sisters) to a disease. And then they are not taken care of well and one of the boys gets beaten by his father. Also here the grandmother could not stand to see that and took care of both the boys with love. At the Free Education Project they can go (for the first time) to school.
That Cu Chi is a poor region where poverty is at upper hand became again clear to me at Sunday. I was asked to help giving rice to the poor, and of course I would do that and help them. The people who are considered to get rice from ‘The Congregation” need to show that they have no job, how large their family is and why there is poverty.


And to my bug surprise the family was still complete, and it looked like the father is even doing better. While I was looking into the book together with the children and the mother, father was making some tea. And yes… here out of the city, less hygienic and different water (not totally boiled), can you drink it? It didn’t came to my mind to think about that!

A little twinkle in the eyes in a normal sad looking face because we are there bringing them a book with pictures of their children is definitely worthwhile that drinking tea in these conditions is part of it.

 

As soon as there is an improvement in their situation the free rice will be stopped then. Also this is severe, the poverty can be seen on their faces and body. You can see that they are unhealthy and sometimes dirty. Some of them, especially the elder people, have bad teeth or no teeth at all.

For the fourth family we went deeper into the province. A place that you only can reach by bike, scooter or boat. And we have been travelling this day by scooter (my hosting family has no car) so that was no problem at all.

 

What an impressions again, but also a huge awareness. We do have it really well at home.    A doctor, a dentist, food and attending school are just normal to us. Here in Vietnam it is not regular for everyone. We are glad that we, as Care4theKids, can do this for some children. But we are not doing that alone. We do that together with the help of all our sponsors, contributors and volunteers. Many thanks for that!

Also in this family there was a feeling of recognition. We had to walk through the mud to get to the house. And also they showed intense to be happy with the book. When we made pictures of the youngest 1,5 year ago he was so shy… and now he was open and enthusiastic. And he remembered it all. While we were looking into the book he started clapping and telling who he saw… pictures of school, himself, his brothers or even me! Later he lay on his belly to look everything all over again.

 

As a closing of the weekend I went to Tu Duc with Sister Nhuong. In Tu Duc is the main office of “The Congregation” located. Here, amongst others, sisters are trained and educated, and young girls are sheltered who live in bad living conditions. Also here a school can be found. My visit to Tu Duc was just for pleasure. I saw again Sister Tuy, she is the one with whom I made 2 years ago my project plan for the free Education Project. It was really nice to hear that she is still following the project and that she is proud about what has been accomplished so far. And I share that with her.


The fifth family lived around the corner where I stayed. A mother, a severe heart patient, together with her daughter (the cover girl).
And this little girl has grown, literally and figurally speaking. She became bigger and opener.

 

Tomorrow I leave for a few days to Ca Mau, I will visit the families  where Ineke Vernimmen and myself were allowed to shoot some pictures in February for the book Sống.

Also for them the pictures were recognizable. They could tell exactly that the ball the girl was playing with for the photo fell into the water and that she then got a whole bag with balls. Also here a lot of happiness when they may keep the book which they showed directly to the neighbours after we left.

Another reason of my trip to Cà Mau was a visit to a project in Bac Lieu.

 

Every family will get a book. Also I will bring a visit to the project in Bac Lieu. A big suitcase with clothes, underwear (thanks to Hanneke en Dick Schröder) and cuddle toys are brought with me. In the next story I will tell you all about it.
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I took a taxi because it would took me an hour drive, the price (15 Euro) cannot be compared with the Dutch prices of course but for the most people living at the countryside it is a lot of money. But as we took a case with us filled with different kinds of stuff and also the family this was more efficient.

 

lt Cu Chi Free Education Project is developing thanks to contributors of Care4theKids!

CamNhanh already notified them that we would be there around 8 in the morning.
Nope, there is no time for long sleeping, wake-up call at 6 in the morning and then there is breakfast. A little before 8 we arrived in Bac Lieu where we got welcomed by the director of the orphanage. She really liked it that I personally now delivered a suitcase with material.

 

A visit to the Free Education Project!

A short update of the Free Education Project in Cu Chi. Within a few months a lot has been happened.
Today, Thursday 17th July, Henriette brought together with Verona and Wim a visit to the project.


About 3 times a year a suitcase with materials goes to the project, which are most of the times are brought by the family of CamNhanh and Tuan.
The director was very happy with the materials I gave to her and when I asked her if she would like to have more materials in the future she answered wholeheartedly “YES, please”
And then we went with the suitcase to the accommodation of the children. There they were sitting in a circle at the ground. After that I opened the suitcase and I took the first cuddly toy out of it I only saw happy smiling faces. Some of them would like to stand up immediately to get a cuddly toy but first we took a look what kind of animals were in the suitcase.

 

Something we immediately noticed was the open area next to the school. An area where normally the weeds is growing at shoulder height. The front area is becoming a playfield. The ground has been egalized and soil has been made around to grow grass.

They all were able to name most of them. In the suitcase there were also a few bags with new underwear, for boys and girl, but also baby clothes for the smallest ones. Hanneke en Dick, this was again a great idea and many thanks for sponsoring this.
The mentors mentioned they were very happy with this as they had a shortage in it

 

There are already goals at the field, later we hope to realize more sports and play facilities. The children cannot wait to play but first the grass has to grow!
In the meantime different kind of vegetables are growing in the recently constructed garden. In about a few weeks they hope the harvest the first home grown vegetables. There are different kind of Morning Glory and corn.

 

Next to the garden, under a cloth, is a big tank with fish. This tank is specially made to cultivate fish for own consumption. It takes about 3 months before the fish has grown big enough to consume.


After saying goodbye to the children we went also to the house were the elderly are taken care of because they have no family at all and they cannot take care of themselves. I also wanted to see my big garden friend (well big.. he is almost walking with his nose at the ground). A friendly old man who is almost completely deformated but he is very proud at his garden and cabin. The moment that we walked into the garden and that he saw me a big smiled appeared upon his face and his hand went up to wave at me.

 

But we see the children enjoy happily their meals which are given them at school. The sisters tell us that they see the children become stronger and healthier. Also the milk which the children get twice a week contributes to their health.
Care4theKids would like, also out name of the sisters, teachers and children of the project, to thank everyone who has supported these beautiful developments.

Fabulous, this can make me so happy. We took a look together at his garden and cabin and of course we made a picture. He is always posing for this and when I show him the picture his smile becomes even more bigger!

 

Also at this project we left a book behind. The director would show the book personally to my old friend because also he is mentioned in the book!

It was again a beautiful time and wonderful days in Cà Mau. I am so happy that I was able to do this, I did not want to miss that. But then again these days were also intensive and tiring. You live in a complete different culture in which communication with each other is a big issue. Fortunately cellphones with a dictionary are then an asset as they provide help when needed when your lost in words and signage.
Beside that you also see the suffering we do not (or hardly not) know. People who really have no chance at a well and healthy life and children of which their future is unsure.
The sad look in the faces of these people says often enough. How beautiful is it then, even when it is only for a while that you can make their eyes sparkle? Only by bringing them a visit and giving them a great reminder?

Sweet greetings,
Henriette

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