Wednesday, January 24, 2007

A day of openings

Tuesday was an unusual day at Blue Dragon. I spent most of the day in Bac Ninh province, north of Hanoi, attending opening ceremonies for two buildings that we have funded.

Our first stop was Tram Lo Primary School, where the principal has been hoping for years to have a library that her students can use. Libraries are rare in this part of the world, although Vietnamese people in general LOVE to read. Somebody once had the audacity to tell me that libraries are an unnecessary extravagance in Vietnam. I won’t tell you what I said in reply.

The principal organized a big party, with a cutting of the ribbon and lots of dignitaries. She wasn’t the only one bubbling with excitement – if only you could have seen the way the kids raced in to get hold of the brand new books that were on display.

Keep in mind that for many of these kids, without our support they would end up in garment factories in Saigon working 18 hours a day. Instead, they are reading, studying, and playing in a brand library. Beautiful. BIG THANKS to the Schmitz Stiftung for footing the bill!

My team and I then went to the opening of a new house. Thinh is one of our sponsored children; he lives with his mother and 87 year old grandmother. When I first visited them, their house was a brick hut held up with bamboo poles. The sun shone right through the cracks in the roof and walls. It was dark and, frankly, uninhabitable.

A donation from some of our friends in Australia, Doug and Carolynn, has resulted in a new, huge home with large windows, a high ceiling, and a safe electrical system. Thinh’s mother was in tears; she couldn’t believe the change in her fortune.

It was especially nice to see that the local community contributed to the costs of the house, and a builder from another province helped us with the design and supervision of the building – totally for free. He was there on Tuesday, with a gift that he had bought for the family.

Before we headed back home, our contact in the Red Cross took us to visit one more family. They had heard about our work, and wanted to know if we could help them, too… Another case in urgent need of a new house. The father of the household lost an arm and a foot in a work accident, and now lives with his wife, three daughters and one son in yet another dark, dangerous hut that will certainly fall down before too long.

Time now to go looking for some more funds…

Meantime, back in Hanoi, we are facing a few new and challenging runaway cases – more on those in coming days.

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