Sunday, May 21, 2006

No time to catch a breath

I'm back in Viet Nam, and already it seems like months since I was in Australia. People keep asking me what it was like to go home, but after 4 years in Nam, well, this is my home.

My first week back has been hectic and insane - which is nothing unusual, and certainly no complaint, but wow, was I dead by Friday afternoon.

The Blue Dragon staff and vols did incredibly well while I was away. They dealt with some extremely difficult events, and as always they came up with spectacular results.

(Try this for a challenging task: At one point, the staff had to recover a computer that was stolen. The thief took it and sold it to a computer store which promptly dismantled it and sold everything in individual parts to different buyers. But the staff got it back!! All of it! Data included! They really are an amazing team).

They did have some difficulties, too: one foreign volunteer suffered a knee injury and was hospitalised in a local hospital - which meant that she needed Vietnamese colleagues to stay with her almost round-the-clock; and another had some terrible news about her mother's health and has had to return to Australia, a full year before her assignment was due to be completed.

And what of the kids? Again, some massive challenges for everyone. One of our boys was caught walking down the street with, umm, a part of somebody's house, and received the beating of his life for it. (Read: boot prints all over his face and body). Obviously that gives us a few issues to deal with.

Another one of the boys has come down with TB meningitis, and the tuberculosis hospital refused to accept him until the fourth time our staff took him there. (Sorry, doctor, but more exercise and iron tablets are NOT a cure for TB meninigitis).

One of the great things that happened in my absence was an art exhibition at L'Espace, a French art gallery near Hanoi's Opera House. An art teacher from UNIS School, Panni Varadi, has been organising weekly art sessions in the evenings with a group of about 12 children, including 4 Blue Dragon children. The sessions have been taught by artists who live in Hanoi, and the kids' work has been so inspiring that L'Espace wanted to exhibit some of the work. Only problem is, I can't find out much about what happened, because when I ask the kids they just laugh, and when I ask the staff they simply say "It was sooo amazing!"

And finally, we had some great news that funding has come through from an organisation in Germany, called, Schmitz Stiftung. This grant will enable us to build a library for a primary school in Bac Ninh province, where there aren't very many libraries at all... We've built houses for families before, but this is the first time that we will construct facilities for a school - a good step forward, I think.

In coming weeks, there's plenty more happening. The Australian Embassy is providing funds for us to improve the safety of our children's center and set up a room that will then be used for a daily lunch hour with our most malnourished children - so first some building and maintenance, and then a new program to feed 20 or 30 kids.

We're also increasing the frequency of our football matches; a new team of older players is about to start (Thursday mornings at 7 o'clock!), and running a drama program during the summer holidays.

No time to rest, that's for sure. But it's all good...

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