Charity in the wider community
Discover Nha Trang loves to uncover stories of locals and expats who are doing good in the community, and providing their time and resources to help the less fortunate. One such couple who spent much of their free time pursuing this endeavour are Eileen and Steve Brown – owners of Pure Vietnam Beauty and Spa.
Their journey to come and live in Vietnam was founded on charity work, and they have since decided to make Nha Trang their home. Upon meeting them at a coffee shop on the outskirts of the city, we had the pleasure of learning about the couple’s tireless work in helping an entire community of villagers near Tu Bong Mountain in Khanh Hoa. Most of those in need are orphaned children who are homed and taken care of by volunteers and monks. Below, Eileen gives us a personal insight into the work taking place here to provide homes and resources for the children:
By Eileen Brown
I am about to start an amazing journey. I feel very privileged to have been invited to stay in the orphanage for a few months to help take care of the children, hopefully help them to start raising funds, and maybe in my spare time, I will help set up a summer school and teach some English for the local children. I think this is the next step from the charity work that I have been doing with Pure Vietnam Beauty and Spa, and I wholeheartedly believe that it is an opportunity to make a lasting difference. I would like to share the story of the orphanage with you and introduce you to some of the children that they have.
Nestled at the foot of a mountain in Tu Bong, Khanh Hoa is a temple named Tinh Xa Ngoc Van. This temple is approximately 90 minutes north of Nha Trang by car. The head monk, Giac Hanh, has been here for over ten years, and he is a man with a big vision. They started out with nothing, and through years of hard work he has just finished building a new temple and a two hundred bed orphanage. They were given the money to fund this construction from IKEA after a man who works for the company went to Tu Bong on a holiday and met Giac Hanh. They have worked very hard in conjunction with the local people to make this vision a reality.
Lots of thought has gone into trying to maximize the ways in which they have used their money. The beautiful surrounding mountains are rich in granite deposits . After receiving donations of old machinery to cut the granite, along with some old transport trucks, they have harvested some of the massive granite boulders from the mountain, tirelessly cutting it into large sheets with which to construct the orphanage and temple. I must admit, the orphanage looks absolutely spectacular, and they have used the resources that were readily available to them in a very smart way. Despite the grand design, they now need funds with whcih to operate the orphanage.
Officially opened on the 21st of February 2016, it is struggling to open to capacity for a few reasons, namely a lack of operating finance, and particularly in human resources, as there is a lack of enough carers required to look after the children. The orphanage operates a “dropbox” program whereby babies, whose mothers are unable to care for them, can be brought to the orphanage to receive the care they require. At the moment they have many babies, and appear to be receiving more and more.
Babies are very labor intensive, and require a constant supply of formula and nappies, which is quite expensive. In the orphanage at the moment, there are now eight babies, under the age of sixteen months with the addition of two older boys, aged four and ten years. Gradually, as they have taken on more children, the numbers of helpers have increased, however there is not nearly enough to take care of all the children, and so some children have been taken into local homes in the community where they are sponsored to be cared for.
People are leaving the babies at the orphanage because they know that they will be safe and raised with love. The first baby that they received is a boy by the name of Phuc. He is now 17 months old. Phuc has mental and physical disabilities and has been a ‘high-care’baby for his whole time he has been here. Unfortunately he doesn’t seem to be achieving any of his milestones. He is unable to lift his head or do anything with his arms or legs. He cannot look around or crawl. He needs the same attention as a newborn baby. Miss Thuy is the lady who started to take care of him initially. She is a tireless worker who always seems to have a ready smile and is the go-to lady when we visit the orphanage.
They have twin babies who were three months old when they were left here, and they are now four months old. Trung and Nghia are gorgeous, and certainly do look like twins when they are awake. I’m sure they will be double trouble when they grow up. They are starting to crawl a little and look around. They take an interest in everything that is happening around them. Someone made a fabulous double-swing cot for them, and it is lined with brightly colored mobiles and toys.
Xuan Hien is a six month old boy who has an amazing amount of black hair. He can certainly drink and lets everyone know when he’s awake. He is doing really well. He is so big and healthy looking and loves cuddles.
There was a baby with a cleft palate, Hieu, who is now eight months old, and is now doing extremely well. She has gained weight and is a very happy baby. She went to Saigon after TET for an operation to start fixing her cleft palate, and as a result, she is now eating really well. I fed her lunch, maybe not as efficiently as she normally gets it but she can certainly eat so much better now. I remember feeding her before her operation and it is an amazing difference to see. Hieu is crawling around on the floor very quickly, scampering everywhere she loves to smile and play.
Hau is a seven and a half month old boy who is has grown a lot since the last we saw him. He is doing well drinking and all the things he should do. He smiles and laughs and is starting on his crawling journey. Duc was left at the orphanage when he was one day old. He is now just over one month old. He has the longest fingers and big feet. The head of hair that he has would put a lot of men to shame. He certainly seems very healthy.
Because there are so many babies who require so much care, the amount of older children has had to decrease. Now,there are only two older children, a four year old giggling boy called Tung, and a ten year old boy who seems very sad. I played a game with the older boy where he saved the princess in the castle and he became quite animated, but he quickly withdrew into himself again after we had finished.
Miss Thuy and her assistants do an amazing job that just doesn’t seem to end with so many babies. They need supplies for the children, but mostly they need people to help take care of them as well. If you want to volunteer for a day, week, month or any time I’m sure they would love you to help, or if you can donate nappies, formula or any baby items such as clothing or toys, I know it would be so gratefully received. Perhaps you could sponsor the salary for someone to look after the children.
I have just started a Go Fund Me page where people can donate so that we can support them in their dream of taking care of the children with love and support. I have now just arrived, and plan to spend the next couple of months with the kids, helping out and making plans for how we can secure more funding and resources to help these wonderful children. If you would like to help out in any way, shape or form, don’t hesitate to contact me or Steve as every little bit helps. In the next few months, we hope to arrange a weekend where interested people can come up and see the kids themselves, and all of the great work that is taking place here. I’m sure the kids would just love to meet some happy foreigners, even if just for a few hours!