Visiting Thien Duyen Buddhist Temple
An excerpt from a report by Frank Tran, V.P. of Communications:
Probably the poorest of all the orphanages, Thien Duyen housed children of many physical and mental disabilities. Some of the children here were actually innocent victims of 'Agent Orange', a deadly gas used as a weapon by the U.S. during the Vietnam War. However, they all showed high spirits and great interest for the activities we brought along. We held a creative drawing session, where they drew animals, people, houses, religious figure, and even wrote some poems. When story time came around, the children couldn’t peel their eyes off of the projector screen; pointing, laughing, and adoring the colorful imagery.
The orphanage leader showed us the new building which Donate For Children is helping them to raise funds for. Within a few years, he hopes that it will serve as the new classroom setting for the children. They currently arrange wooden desks along the patio behind the temple. The orphanage leader offered a gesture of appreciation by presenting a gift to each volunteer – a vase made of buttons, created by the orphans.
Thien Duyen provides vocational training similar to that of Hoc Mon Orphanage, providing the children with a way to support themselves in the future.
Jackie Shibata, a graduate from the University of California, San Diego, also visited Thien Duyen. A part from her journal reads:
Our second visit was to Thien Duyen orphanage. We ate and then packed up all the electronics and gifts for our day at the orphanage. This time we went even further outside the city. It was in a Buddhist temple and was not as nice as the first one we went to. The beds were wooden with a single sheet, no kind of mattress or pillows and they were only surrounded by two walls, meaning one side of the building was exposed to the outdoors. The kids here were much younger and most were mentally disabled in some way. One woman looked like a 5 year old child, acted like an infant, but was 36 years old! Mai translated that some of the kids had parents who had been poisoned during the war; I learned later that millions of kids were born birth defects because their fathers had been exposed to Agent Orange during the American-Vietnam war. It’s sad to see the effects of war on a country; decades after the war ended, many are still suffering from the aftermath. We started the day by showing them pictures on a projector, some were ones I had just taken and the kids were excited to see themselves. Then we passed out large poster paper and helped them draw. One girl laughed hysterically as her friend drew pictures, but was very shy and would angrily say no when I asked her if she wanted to draw. But eventually after I drew some pictures and we laughed together, she was willing to take the pen and really seemed to enjoy it. She couldn’t speak so we got along really well signing to each other (since I can’t speak Vietnamese, it was perfect J). Later she would always smile when we saw each other and grab my arm and sit next to me, I felt like I’d made a connection. Also, there was another room with mats on the floor where some severely disabled kids just laid. I sat with one for awhile, he or she just rocked and hit a pile of crackers she had in her hand over and over. She didn’t seem like she could communicate but later offered me her crackers for my digital camera. I wondered how much these kids knew and couldn’t communicate, anyway they were fun to be around...