|A team of 10 Young Envoys visited the Central Highlands province of Kon Tum |
UNICEF/Viet Nam/2012/Ly Phat Linh
23 July: Ha Noi
Felix Tam Chun-Yan: “The Buddhist Leadership Initiative: More than technology, we need humanity”
|Felix Tam Chun-Yan enjoyed an inspirational visit to Kon Tum Province’s social protection centre. UNICEF/Viet Nam/2012/Ly Phat Linh|
24 July: Kon Tum
|Julia Zschiesche helps out during her visit to the Kon Tum social protection centre. UNICEF/Viet Nam/2012/Ly Phat Linh|
Following a morning’s briefing session by UNICEF Viet Nam staff, we were excited to visit Kon Tum’s social protection centre, especially as we were told they had prepared a special performance for us. With UNICEF support, the centre provides accommodation, nutrition, rehabilitation services, informal education and vocational training to more than 160 children and elderly people. It also provides shelter for 65 orphans and 85 children with disabilities. Some of the disabled children were affected by Agent Orange, a defoliant used during the Viet Nam war that has affected the whole province. Its population still suffers as birth deformities that can still be passed onto other generations, while the US$800 test is often too expensive for people to take.
As we were invited to visit the social protection centre, we were introduced to Ms. Nga, who suffered from severe disabilities. The 42-year-old woman had the physical development of a 12-year-old. As we entered the room, we noticed she was nimbly working on a fish mesh net. As we interviewed her, we found that it took her, on average, one month to complete a net, which she could sell for around US$10. It was very inspiring to watch her go about her work, showing so many skills and passion, despite her disabilities.
We also visited vocational training activities in one of the centre’s rooms. There, children were sorting stalks of hay to produce broomsticks and, with the leftovers, making toothpicks. Most of the children in that room suffered from light types of disabilities. We found them friendly and I decided to sit down and help them out. I picked up a piece of hay and tried to do exactly what the girl sitting next to me was doing - pulling the feathers off the stalks. The girl, after a while, stopped me and indicated I was pulling the feathers incorrectly. She gave me a crash course and soon I was pulling feathers as fast and efficiently as she was. I was rewarded with a smile of approval, which filled me with a sense of happiness and accomplishment.
A little boy
Towards the end of our visit, we entered a room dedicated to providing rehabilitation and physical therapy to children with disabilities. The room was filled with young children and I decided to team up with a young boy with a damaged foot, who was walking up and down the room with support from a walking device. I was soon told by one of the social workers that the young boy could walk for hours. His determination impressed me. As I was about to leave the room, another boy popped up and I waved to greet him. To my surprise, he started to smile at me, grabbed my finger, then suddenly jumped and hugged me. I felt a warm glow of happiness and I could not bring myself to let go of him. We did a little dance and I could feel how happy he was to show his dancing skills. As the group was calling me to get on the bus, the boy wrapped his little arm around me. The temptation to stay was strong, but I sadly waved goodbye and left. I will always remember that day and the love and attention the children shared with us.