Week 2 at Green Lion HQ: The volunteering begins!

So we’ve finally reached the tail end of our 100 day trip, and this is the week we have been looking forward to for a very long time. Both Jason and I have been placed to work at the Daycare for children with disabilities at the local hospital. Its roughly a 20 minute walk from the College and is a government daycare centre. There are 26 kids enrolled here of varying ages between 3 years to 16 years with the majority being under 10 years old. The cost of sending a child here is 50,000dong per day (roughly AUD$2.50) which is ridiculously cheap given that it includes approximately 9 hours worth of care as well as lunch. There are 4 permanent staff here including 3 teachers and 1 physiotherapist.

We really didn’t know what to expect upon coming here. The majority of patients we’ve worked with back home are adults so we were a little nervous about the prospect of having to work with kids. Arriving there for the first time we saw what appeared to be a tiled room filled with children playing on the floor. The kids were gorgeous and we were instantly drawn to the warmth of their smiles. Most of the kids here have either a mental or physical disability, not often is it that they have both. The conditions which these kids have are either Cerebral Palsy or Autism, something which we both greatly lack experience in.

Our day is generally split into two shifts:
– Morning 9am-11am: Helping kids with writing exercises, playing educational games and feeding them
– Afternoon 2pm-4pm: Facilitation of a group activity such as painting, balloon throwing etc..

Each and every day we went to the daycare we were able to learn more and more about each child we interacted with; what they like/don’t like, the ways they prefer to eat, what makes them laugh, their physical and mental capacities. Approximately half of the children don’t walk, but we both agree that with a better healthcare system and proper rehab the majority of these kids have great potential to walk at least with a mobility aid.

Something we found quite interesting is what we saw at the end of the day when the parents came to pick up their children. Pretty much all the parents arrive on their motorbikes and sit their children on their lap or a plastic chair which fits in the leg space at the front. But prior to this, the parents will often assist their kids to walk to the motorbike. So it really makes us wonder, if these kids do have some sort of ability to walk, why are they either all crawling or sitting down all day? We know we can’t help every single kid in the room but we’ve found ourselves drawn to a few kids in particular who we feel have the most likely chance to improve with our help over the next three weeks.

During the week I found myself giving impromptu Street Food Walking Tours to two groups of volunteers on separate occasions. Knowing the local language is very useful and we are very fortunate to be staying in a district with such fantastic and authentic Vietnamese food. The tour consisted of a variety of dishes included: Banh Cuon (Pork mince wrapped in rice noodle sheets), Banh Bao (White sweet bun filled with mince meat and egg), Xoi Cuc (Glutinous rice with bean and meat), Banh Xeo (Savoury pancake), Nuoc Mia (Sugar Cane Drink) and the infamous Hot Vit Lon (Duck Foetus).

For the weekend a group of 8 of us decided to book a hotel to stay at in District 1 on backpacker street. 6 of the girls went on a Mekong tour whilst we stayed back and went shopping in Saigon Square and Cho Lon (Chinatown). Unfortunately for the girls, they were met with torrential rain and an extremely boring tour consisting of island hopping which was really a way for the tour company to entice tourists to buy from affiliated souvenir stores. Another unfortunate thing about this particular weekend was saying our goodbyes to some of the girls. Even though we’ve only known them for 2 weeks, it really does feel like we’ve known them forever :(. Saying goodbye was certainly a low-point of this trip.

So onwards and upwards for final two weeks of volunteering.

Until next time
Ann & Jason xo

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