Sunday, May 8, 2011

Brian - our yearly Phuc Le volunteer

Brian is an Australian I met in Vietnam. He started to help me with our projects about six years ago including helping me set up the education project in Phuc Le, in Thai Binh province. About a year after starting to help he headed back to the family in Darwin as he wanted more time with his partner, his children and grandchildren.

For the last four years Brian has been coming back to Vietnam yearly; well almost yearly. One year he was in Cambodia prior to coming to Vietnam and a dengue mosquito got him and came down with dengue fever. That year he ended up in hospital instead of Phuc Le. He recovered well and the following year he continued his yearly trips to help with our northern education project.

Each time he spends two to three days there going to all the homes to see the children and their parents or carers. Some years he doesn't manage to see them all as some of the children go to school 7 days a week so even when he vists twice he still misses them. Some get back home too late to be able to catch up with him at the vicarage in the evening. He stays at the vicarage most of the time and many of the children who aren't at home when he visits manage to get to the vicarage to see him, so he can catch up with them. He takes pictures and writes a report on each child. This is very helpful and allows us to assess if the child needs more help or if the family has recovered from their poor financial state and is now in a better financial situation.

Over the years we have only stopped the support for one child as her family were fortunate enough to improve their financial situation considerably. Unfortunately the others continue to struggle to make ends meet,and most don't manage that.

The children he didn't manage to see are being seen by our northern coordinator, Mr Chu. He will soon be sending his photos and reports as well as the school results which should be out in June. We can then send them all onto their sponsors.

As this is Chu's community it is hard for him to say "it is time to stop supporting this child", as he would have to bear the consequences of that decision and would lose face. So an external assessment yearly is absolutely essential.

Brian's yearly assistance is invaluable and we feel blessed to have his help. He is very committed to this education project and has a sincere interest in the children's wellbeing, their education and their future.

Attached are some pictures of Brian and some of the great photos he took of the children. He says he prances around to try and get them to smile or laugh and suggests silly poses. He is glad no one except the children see him fooling around.

Brian and I had time to catch up and I asked him why he likes doing charity work.

"I have had a fortunate life. Now, late in life, I have the opportunity and ability to give back to those less fortunate. And it keeps me off the streets." He said smiling and chuckling.

"At home I am the typical granddad and try to impart some wisdom. And I probably bore the grandchildren to death." (He is a granddad of 4).

He talked about the most satisfying aspects of helping:
"I get to have a first hand look at the work. I love being part of a team and seeing the team making a difference. Just a few people in a team can make others lives more comfortable and give them more opportunities than they otherwise would have".

He also talked about the enjoyable, the challenging and sad aspects of charity work:
"It is full of unexpected surprises and experiences. I saw two little children in tatters, the eldest with a large plastic bag over her shoulder. They were collecting plastic bottles for recycling. I found a plastic bottle and gave it to the eldest of the two. In perfect English she said 'thank you very much.' I asked her how old she was and she said 'I am five'.

Knowing what happens to some children, how they are used and abused. I can't cope with that and have to cut off to that reality.

Being realistic it is becoming a harder balancing act as I get older. I still have the drive to do it but as I am getting older it is becoming harder to balance the time with my partner, my children and grandchildren, carry out my travel wishes, and do this work. As long as I have the drive and health I want to continue to help though."