Monday, September 6, 2010
Children from Hoa Van Leper Community
It's taken time for the Hoa Van community not to look at me as if I am an alien from a far away planet. Well I guess it's not surprising as I have blue eyes and arrive looking highly windswept after the motorbike trip to them. Now after a year of helping the children from the poorest families in the community to receive an education they are considering that I am a friend and not a foe. Their only contact with westerners up to this point was that they had turned up in their community, given some clothes, food or some money and gone. They had no association of any permanence with help from westerners. Several of them have commented that even though I said I would help them long-term they didn't believe it.
Yesterday it was another hot trip, but not a searingly hot one as it was the last time we met the children. On the last trip we lathered ourselves with sunscreen before the trip each way, but still got burnt. This time Duyen and I travelled the hour to meet them and their mothers or fathers to give them some money for uniforms, satchels, school supplies and 'fees' for this term. They had to produce a stamped receipt if they wanted to be reimbursed for any school expenses they had already paid out. This was a helpful strategy to get them to remember to get receipts.
We met in the home of the headman of the community. He is sweet. Well I think he is as he has this large lovely smile and smiles often. He is a good man and is always honest even at the risk of meeting with dissaproval.
Next time we are meeting in a government hall as the local government likes to be able to see what the westerners really are up to. I don't blame them as some years ago there were some riots incited by westerners. We will meet with government officals present to make the school related payments. As we have nothing to hide it all helps make things go more smoothly. Once they see we are not trouble-makers it makes it easier with any requests we make and with official paperwork.
The days of just helping out without any official permission are over and now we need permission from several authorities (national,provincial and local) to help those in need of some educational assistance. My job involves more and more time attached to a computer as we help more children. Everything is becoming more official here and this is good as paedophilia is not uncommon. Officialdom protects the children more which is crucial and so that helps me accept the computer-bound days as there couldn't be a better reason.
Back to the children from the community..... They have been the most resistent to making a connection of all the children we have helped over the years. But I feel due to them now believing there will be ongoing support I feel them opening up and relaxing more. They now know that we try to be reasonable with the help we give each of them too. Due to communism and the belief that everyone should be treated equally the parents complained initially that we didn't give everyone exactly the same amount of support. They now understand that everyone doesn't need exactly the same amount and know that we try to consider each family and support them appropriately. One mother wanted us to know she had a part-time job for the next three months and wanted to know if we needed to reduce the assistance we gave her and her children. She needs the extra money as she is a single parent and one of her children has epilepsy and is on permanent medication which she has to pay for.
I didn't expect this shift to take place, but to see them not look so worried and to see their beautiful smiling faces is a blessing worth waiting for. It's an amazingly warming experience to see the children and parents smiling more, being more relaxed with me and able to talk more honestly and openly.
This year we are committed to seeing fourteen lovely children from this community through school. If you would like to help be a part of this project and bring about the possibility of a better future for this community please do get in touch.
With many thanks to those who care about these children receiving an education and have been wonderful supporters over the last year.