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"Together We Sing" - Hoc Mon Children Center Minimize

Visiting Hoc Mon Children Center

Hoc Mon Children Center, or T.P. HCM Vocational Training Center for Orphaned and Disabled Children, houses teenagers and young adults with wide ranging disabilities (deafness, paralysis, blindness, other physical disabilities, birth defects from Agent Orange gas dropped by the U.S. during the Vietnam War). The school's mission is to not only house orphans, but teach them skills in order to become independent. They offer training in woodwork, embroidery, computer science, massage therapy, and fine arts. Many students have successfully completed their vocational training and earned work outside the orphanage. Some graduates have stayed to show their gratitude by helping younger generations. It is important to acknowledge that these individuals never give up; they show the strength and determination to overcome whatever challenges they may face.

A volunteer describes of her experience as follows:

Our first trip was to Hoc Mon which is a orphanage/vocational school in the outskirts of Saigon. All the volunteers and supplies were loaded up into two large vans, on the way everyone was talking and singing (even though it was early). The volunteers were all very friendly and helpful loading and unloading the car. The facility was really nice, much nicer than what I was expecting. There was a classroom, some offices, a small library, the dorms, and a couple workshops where the kids made crafts. We were told that there was a school to train the kids with the proper skills needed to obtain all kinds of different jobs in the “real world.” The facility was fairly new, I think they said it’d been open for about a year, but already they had trained and graduated 150+ kids! Everyone there was handicapped and many were orphans.  Many of these kids, though missing feet or having crooked limbs, were very active, happy and inspirational.  For example, we were greeted by, and shook the foot of a girl in a wheelchair who was able to paint and write with her feet because she had little use of her arms. Anyhow, Frank, Kevin and I talked to the coordinator for awhile, she was very friendly, showed us around and was extremely appreciative of us being there.  The kids all sat in a classroom-like assembly hall and most were teenagers, you’ll see this in the pictures. Frank made a speech, then the coordinator presented us with some of the handmade crafts that they sell there, it was really sweet.  Then we all sang, and Mai made me sing alone!! I was taken by surprise, I thought we’d all sing together, and being my second day in Vietnam I was a little shy, but it was fun.

Then we played a game sort of like Simon Says, but you touch your head, chin and ear; anyway I wasn’t very good at it since I’d just learned the words and since I kept messing up, I was “punished” along with three of the kids. We had to stand in the front of the room and they got to name us household items, I was named Banh Mi and had to answer that to anything they asked me.  For example one kid yelled out, “What do you hold onto when you’re scared” and I had to reply, “Banh Mi.”  It was fun and the kids were really into it. Then we passed out balloons and the kids went crazy, they loved them! We had a contest to see what balloon creations they could come up with, I worked with a group of girls, it was really fun to work with them and connect with them, we would laugh as our faces turned blue trying to blow up these Vietnamese balloons (our balloon animal wasn’t very good, but it was fun working on it). It was so funny to see and hear balloons popping every couple seconds, everyone was talking and laughing and working away, it was great.  They made everything from balloon hats and uniforms, to pigs and a replication of their logo.  Some were very creative, all were colorful and fun and the kids really enjoyed it.  The MC, Kang (or something similar to that, sorry I was so bad with names) had each kid talk about the invention into the microphone, everyone was cracking up and clapping, it was just a really good time.  Then we passed out lunch, banh mi (ironically haha) and milk boxes and lichi (the fruit); at this time frank set up the projector, dvd player, etc. and played a comedy sketch for them; they seemed to enjoy it, I couldn’t understand it. After lunch, we took pictures and then toured the grounds. We watched the girl students make artificial flowers using nylon and wire; they were really beautiful. Then we saw the boys working on these handsome wooden crafts.  Some were using electric saw to carve pieces that others had drawn on, others were gluing the pieces together, while others added the finish.  We talked to a couple of the kids, they said they really enjoyed making these. We were told about one kid who was sick, but every chance he had, he would run to the workshop and work on his wooden projects because he loved it so much.  All these kids were handicapped, but seemed happy and were very good at what they were doing.  They sold these handicrafts as a way to raise money for the orphanage/school.  I wonder if these items can be sold on the DFC website or something to help raise money?  We then moved to a large porch area where most of the kids were hanging out; we just sat and talked to them a little and took pictures with them; at this time I felt very uplifted. I sat there looking at all of these handicapped kids sitting around in groups laughing and chatting and singing, and it was really refreshing.  Most of my developing world experiences, especially in India, but in Ecuador too, involved handicapped kids like these ones tugging at my shirt or standing outside the car window on a crowded street, lifelessly asking for food or money; they usually look starved, dirty and defeated. But here, these kids were alive and happy! It was a wonderful thing to see that there was a place where these kids could go and get the proper food and have clothing and make friends and learn skills so that they didn’t have to live the life of a beggar.  DFC also donated enough flip-flops or shoes (I forget which was given to each orphanage) to go around. Also a lot of food was donated.  I asked Mai if there were any orphanages in the city, and she explained that we went to these ones because the ones in the city get attention and funding, but it’s these ones that really need the help. I think its great that DFC is helping this particular institution because it seemed like a great environment, it was already helping many disabled youths and it was young and growing.



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