Thursday, December 23, 2010

Volunteering Sometimes is Not What is Expected

Well I may be wrong, but I suspect when Miriam came to help Children's Education Foundation for a short period of time she would not have anticipated how different her life and role would become.

As Miriam is a social worker and family therapist we had planned a week of meetings and home visits of CEF children who have challenging social situations. The rest of that week would be the necessary report writing. She and I only had one week free to do this.

When she arrived in HCM we talked but I felt poorly and she was too and so she delayed her trip up to Hoi An. By the time she was well again and arrived in Hoi An I felt very poorly and didn't feel well enough for the home visits and arranged for her to do them with my assistant, Duyen. I then went into hospital with suspected dengue fever.

After four days in hospital due to that pesky dengue mosquito bite Miriam took me back to her hotel and looked after me there while I regained some strength. As I recovered more we talked about CEF and I started to catch up a little. Dengue affects the brain and thinking actually hurts so I could only work a couple of hours before the pain was too much and I had to go back to sleep. Yes, any of you can use that as an excuse when you don't want to think about something!

When she could see I was well enough to leave her protective wing and get to the west for more rest, escape the remainder of the wet season and dengue infested Hoi An, she decided it was time for her to leave for her holiday in Laos.

Most of that planned visit for her had been spent looking after me! And amazingly enough she decided she would come back and help CEF further.

When she returned to Hoi An I had planned another period of meetings and home visits of the new CEF children (and of course the report writing). She also was working on developing a fundraising project with another friend for CEF.

Soon afterwards she found herself looking after me again in hospital and then in her home due to an accident I had that resulted in a fractured left fibula. Fortunately it's not serious and I am alive. Here you can have an accident and survive but then a bus or truck finishes you off! So when I realized I was alive and not in the middle of the road and without brain injury I felt so fortunate.

She has been wonderful and caring not just to the CEF children, but also to me. The worst of the pain is over and so I have reduced my pain killers and can stay awake long enough to think and work again. So Miriam has just returned from a trip to my house to pick up my computer so I can get back to CEF work.

Now I'm on Mai's bed working on the computer with the leg raised on a pillow. Mai is Miriam's house mate. Mai, a nurse has also helped CEF with home visits to a mother of one of the children we sponsor and has helped make sure she has an ongoing supply of medication for her terminal condition. Mai is back working in Australia for a short time earning money for her self-funded stays in Hoi An. She helps the local charities here when they need her nursing skills. While away she has kindly offered her room for me to recouperate in while Miriam helps care for me.

Lien, who is my security person, and home, garden and animal helper, has also introduced me to many of the children we help in Hoi An as they are from her neighborhood. While I have been recovering here at Miriam and Mai's home she has been delivering breakfast and lunch and doing my laundry,and running chores, making it less arduous for me and dear Miriam. I am very blessed and feel very loved and cared for.

It's actually overwhelming for me to be cared for by others when I am the one who is used to doing the caring. The only times I can remember being cared for and very happy to be cared for were the times when my mother-in-law came and helped look after me at home after I gave birth to three of my children. After my first and third child she she cared for me in her home. Each time she was wonderful, gentle, sweet, caring and hard working. That was very easy and natural to accept. That was a long time ago and so it's strange to need caring for and to accept it graciously as I don't want to stress my dear friend or take her away from the work she has been doing to help CEF.

A friend helped put it into perspective for me. He said that in Miriam caring for me,she is caring for and working for CEF. He said that there wasn't a more needed or better job she could do, as it was immediately needed and CEF couldn't function without it. The short term role she has ended up taking on has been more useful than anything else she could have taken on at present. It's just she is caring for CEF through caring for me, so that I recover quickly and can get on with all CEF work. He said her timing to volunteer was perfect and could not have been better. It just is not the role that either of us had planned for!

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