Friday, May 01, 2009

Farewell for now

Blue Dragon has been caring for the 30 kids at the Hoi An Children's Home since 2007, but our history with the Home goes back a few years earlier than that.

As early as 2003, when I was living in Hanoi and spending my free time in Hoi An, I would drop in to the Home to see the Director, Mrs Diep, and catch up with the children. There are 30 girls and boys there, all from extremely poor families in remote rural areas, who otherwise would not have the chance to go to school. The Home itself is a very humble place, in need of demolition and a complete rebuild, but there's always been a tremendous spirit of hope and happiness there.

On one of my occasional visits in 2004, I met a new volunteer who had turned up to teach English and run activities for a few weeks. Nicole Woods, from Australia, was a young lawyer taking some time off and wanting to get involved in a worthwhile project.

Just for a few weeks.

Five years later, Nicole is finally getting ready to leave Hoi An and return to Australia.

Quite a few things have happened in the past 5 years! When I first met Nicole, Blue Dragon had no formal involvement with the Home at all; but as the weeks turned into months and then years, it was clear that Nicole was passionate about these kids and determined to improve their conditions. The Home needed some help, and Nicole was ready to do it (and capable): so at that time we made the decision that Blue Dragon would get involved.

With Nicole supported through the VIDA organisation, Blue Dragon assumed management of the Home and within months the Home had staff, social workers, and administrative systems in place.

Nicole has been an extraordinary manager. It's unusual to find someone so thorough and competent with administration, while also so completely in tune with the children.

Yesterday was Nicole's last day at the Home. As it was a public holiday, she gave the staff team the day off and stood in as the supervisor to spend some time with the kids.

She's not just leaving, though - Nicole is going back to Australia to have a baby. After years of caring for the children of others, she's decided it's time to start her own family.

Nicole will fly off soon, but will be back before the end of the year and is likely to return to the Home. We'll miss her while she's away, and she'll be missing the kids terribly; but we're already thinking of her return.

Take care, Nicole, and may your own child bring as much joy to you as you have to so many.

Where's Wally? Nicole is hidden away among
the crowd of past and present residents of
the Hoi An Children's Home


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