Thursday, July 06, 2006

Something to celebrate

We've had a few exciting events this week that are definitely worth sharing.

On Wednesday morning, Blue Dragon threw a party for 12 of our kids who have received Certificates of Excellence for their results in the 2005-06 school year. Although they've already been given their certificates, issued by their schools, we made up a special Blue Dragon certificate for them to hang on their walls as well.

Their achievement is truly something to celebrate. It would be so easy for them to accept their difficult situations and drop out of school, or perform poorly, and blame it on their poverty. But they haven't done that, and so the future is theirs for the taking.

At the same party, we awarded certificates to children who received bicycles from us last year... and who still have them!

It's easy for our kids to 'lose' their bikes - which may mean that they sold them, or gave them to a relative who demanded it. There's a lot of theft in our area, too, so the kids must take extra precautions to keep their property safe. Our small ceremony was intended to congratulate those kids who have cared for the bicycles, and so have shown that they value what they own.

Also this week, we have started a new program for our kids: a daily lunch hour for our most malnourished children.

A few years back, an Australian man living in Hanoi who works as a "development economist" told me in all seriousness that there is no malnutrition in Hanoi. I don't know who was paying him to believe that, but I see malnourished children EVERY DAY of the week.

Many of our kids are physically under developed, and their minds are much 'younger' than they ought to be, too. So of course, these kids are way behind in school, and every week we are dealing with the health issues that arise as a result: ulcers, infections, and all kinds of mystery illnesses that could be cured by some fruit and a healthy drink.

So, although we are focusing on longer-term goals such as education and training, as opposed to food handouts, many of our kids need to improve their diet in order to get ahead in life.

One of our kids (who now happens to work at The Vine) is the chef, and the meals are amazing. Brown rice, freshly made spring rolls, soup, fish, fruit, yoghurt... we've got all the bases covered. We're planning to measure the kids' growth over time, to compare with kids who do not attend the lunches, to see how effective the program is.

And one other achievement this week - a whirligig on a roof!

Countless houses in Hanoi have them; they are like an exhaust fan on the roof, sucking out hot air and creating a gentle breeze from bottom to top.

One of the boys in our program, Ha, lives in a tiny, stuffy house that is just hot all summer long. Ha's dad is severely crippled from polio, and so never, ever leaves the house.

Today, two volunteers, Eric and Andrew, climbed up onto Ha's roof, cut a hole in it, and installed the whirligig. The temperature is already a couple of degrees lower. So simple!

Another satisfied customer...

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