Tuesday, June 22, 2010
2011 is not far off and Shanti my first-born has created a beautiful calendar to raise the funds needed for desks for the children in our northern project - in the Phuc Le Education Project. She has now visited Phuc Le twice and the photos she has taken are of the children,the families,their homes and a vegetable plot. As she works in the film industry and has an artistic eye she has taken many lovely photos. Five of the calendar photos I have included in this post.
They give an idea of what some of the northern farming homes are like. Farming communities are quite traditional and still uphold many Confucius and Taoist traditions. What you can't really see in the photos are the unspoken stories.
It's a hard life for the farmers as the weather has become more unpredictable resulting in families never knowing if the next crop will be successful or will be washed away in a flood or destroyed by winds or hail.
This means many parents leave their children in the care of their parents and go to a large city to earn money as they no longer can earn enough to feed, dress and educate their children.
In a one-roomed farmhouse which we would consider large enough for one or two people, it wouldn't be unusual to find five or six people living in it. It's not uncommon for any unmarried sisters to live with one of their brothers or sisters and help out with the farming, cooking and domestic chores. The eldest son usually has his parents living with him too. The children are used to an extended family living under the one roof and sharing the family bed with them all.
One man we help has four children and lives in a small one-room farmhouse extension with the main one-roomed farmhouse having his unmarried brother, two aunts, one uncle and his father living in it. Several farmhouses in the community have elderly relatives looking after their grandchildren. One family we help has a one-roomed farmhouse with grandparents, one uncle and two little girls living there.
In the cities it's quite different as many want to just live with their partner and their own children. They are conscious of the nuclear family structure and are making the effort to become more western, not realizing how much it will change their lives. Now many infants go into care at two or three months so the mother can return to work where before her mother or his mother or aunt would have helped care for the infants and children allowing the mother and father to work.
Profits from these beautiful calendars are to make study easier for the children in this project. Profit will go towards making desks to help them more easily do their home work and not get chills. At present many do homework on a cold floor through the winter. Even though many people imagine Vietnam to be hot all the time - it's not. The winters in Phuc Le are coooold as they get quite a few snowy winds blowing in from cold northern areas of China through the winter! While where I live in the centre of Vietnam has mild winters and I only need a warm layer early and late in the day.
I hope that you are rather old-fashioned like me and use a real calendar, one that you can see and touch and has pictures and you turn the pages over, and not a mechanical calendar on your I-phone or on an another amazing invention. If so I think you'll appreciate this calendar of the traditional northern village of Phuc Le, its homes, farmhouses and people. At the same time you will also be helping the children have less chills and better school results!
If you would like a calendar or can sell a few for us please see the information below:
If you live in Australia or New Zealand please contact:
Graeme Burn, Australian coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org
Or if you are in Asia contact:
Linda Burn, Founding Director and In-Country Manager at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
And if you are in the States or Canada please contact the USA Coordinator, Stephen Jackel or Linda Burn at email@example.com
Calendars are available now and we hope some of you are like me and enjoy a real calendar!
With huge thanks and love to Shanti for all her creative work to produce such a beautiful calendar,
Over the last two weeks there was a lot to get done before going away from Hoi An to avoid some of the extreme summer heat and humidity which causes me to feel very weak and faint. There were many home visits to do of children CEF sponsors, a meeting with the children from the Danang project and new children to meet who are scattered around Quang Nam who we were requested to see due to their dire situations. The requests were still coming in while I was sitting in Ho Chi Minh airport waiting for my flight out.
As well as those work commitments I needed to make sure I had everything organized for my daughter and her partner to look after the house and the animals. There were some last minute repairs to make and bills to pay and money to leave for forthcoming bills; all those normal things one has to do before going away.
Requests were made to visit 4 little girls whose parents had died and now lived in pagodas. One family we were asked to visit urgently lived in a small country town and they had no income. The neighbors made food donations to the family as they could afford it. The mother had died of brain cancer three months after giving birth to a baby boy. The fathers day were absorbed with just caring for the little baby and his six year old daughter. He had no chance to go out to earn money. In another family the mother also was dying from brain cancer and her daughter was in attendance. The husband-father was out working,looking for whatever work he could on one of her good days.
Over the days of home visits we talked about and reassessed families we had been helping. Some were better off this year but most weren't. With inflation increasing life for the poor has become even harder. Incomes in families varied from nothing to the occasional good income after a few weeks of laboring and most average incomes had dropped.
When I returned home to pay bills and organize funds for the payments that needed to be made while I was away, I felt nauseated as if I would be ill any minute. I felt restless and uncomfortable. Then I realized it was the extreme contrast after nearly two weeks of immersion in dire situations and poverty. The contrast of their bills and my bills was huge. I was left wondering what I could do about it that made sense. There was little I could think of and immersed myself in sorting and eliminating my worldly goods, giving them away to Vietnamese friends and to pagodas where they would give them to people who went there for help. I realized how easily I accumulated and that I needed to give much more attention to what I did buy. I realized that I wasted food. If I wanted to go out to eat I did even when there was food in the fridge that needed eating. I had a fridge - a luxury item in Vietnam. I hadn't seen one in any homes we visited.
I paid bills and organized funds for bills and had a meeting about micro finance. That was one way we could help some of the families we are already helping. But one of the things I realized was how incredibly blessed I was. How I had such abundance in my life. I also had choices - many choices. So often I get caught up in my personl challenges instead of seeing how blessed I am.
Sometimes I am exhausted from the challenges of working and living in Vietnam. I don't seem to have a tough enough skin and temperament. But I still want to do what I can to continue to help others with challenging lives and find ways to help each in a relevent way.
Someone famous, maybe Jesus or Buddha, said we should not compare ourselves to others as it can make us feel miserable, and it can make us feel special and superior. I feel the occasional objective comparison can be healthy and help us be aware of how blessed we each are. I truly feel blessed with good friends and wonderful family,delicious food to eat, devoted pets and a lovely home to live in with more than enough food and clothes. In the west I am judged as poor but I am neither rich nor poor in the material sense, but feel very rich.
Each little thing I do for others makes a difference; not just to them but to me as well as we are all one, not separate.