Mái Ấm Hồng Ân (Blessed Sweet Home) orphanage is unique among many similar organisations. It owes its existence and growth to the generosity and tenacity of a remarkable woman: the paraplegic Vương Ngọc Sương, who, at the age of 24, was rendered disabled by a fall while doing charity work.
Ms Vương Ngọc Sương and the orphans at the Tây Ninh site
Despite her handicap, with boundless love, compassion and energy, Ms Sương takes into her care abandoned children. Some were abandoned because they were severely disabled, needing 24-hour care or thought by many as having no prospect of survival. Ms Sương cares for them, feed them, sends them to schools and some time even marries them off when they have grown up.
The Tây Ninh site, viewed from the front entrance
Part of the Tây Ninh site: children’s playing and eating area
The orphanage was originally in only one location, Ms Sương’s own home in HCMC.
Due to the need to care for the growing number of discarded children, Ms Suong enlisted the help of her parents, turning their property in rural Tây Ninh into the second site for the orphanage.
The original site now looks after about 12 children.
The Tây Ninh site caters for about 30 younger children, aged from a few months to 16 years old, some of them severely disabled
Meal time at the orphanage
In May 2009 the Foundation helped the orphanage with the renovation of the living, sleeping and studying areas for the children at Tây Ninh site, providing them with ceiling fans, book shelves, beds, beddings and mosquito nets.
Studying area is also used as sleeping area for the children
Chidren sleep on bare floor
In addition, we also helped the orphanage to acquire 20 piglets and to install a biogas system. The original piglets have produced many generations of offspring, which are now the source of food and income for the orphanage.
The wastes from these pigs are used as fuel for the biogas system, and are now the source of free, clean energy for cooking.
The VND 8 Million investment in the biogas system has resulted in the saving of VND 10 Million off the orphanage’s VND 18 Million fuel bill annually.
New beds supplied by the Foundation
The original piglets provided by the Foundation
The biogas system installed with the finacial support of the Foundation
The Foundation’s support for the orphanage amounted to VND 109 Million.
An Khánh Primary school is in An Khánh village, Châu Thành district, Bến Tre Province.
The school did not have enough classrooms but had two temporary rooms that were unfinished and not suitable for teaching purposes.
In 2008 the Foundation gave the school financial support to build two new classrooms totaling 132m2 to replace these temporary rooms.
On the ground of the school was a pond which presented hazard to the young children.
We therefore helped leveling the pond, turning it into play ground for the children.
The school also had no proper toilet for the children.
We also helped build two new toilets to replace the existing unsanitary facility.
The total cost of the project was VND 165 Million (about AUD 11000)
The project was completed and handed over on 27 Nov 2008 with the presence of our representative in Vietnam, Prof. Nguyen Thien Tong.
An Mỹ village in Kế Sách district Sóc Trăng province has a high percentage of Khmer and Chinese ethnic minorities. Most of the villagers engage in agriculture and aquaculture. More than 20% live under property line.
In co-operation with Heifer Vietnam, a branch of the US NGO Heifer International, the Foundation supported a project which aimed to improve the livelihood of 44 families in this area.
Each of the families was gifted with a heifer (young female cow). Two of the families were also gifted with a breeding bull each.
In addition, the participant families also received micro-credits to start cash crop production or small-scale business to supplement their incomes.
The young calves were handed over to the project participants in a ceremony on 30 June 2008
Dr Nguyễn Thiện Tống, our representative in Vietnam, with one project participating family at the heifer handover ceremony
The families were organised into self-help groups which have regular meetings to support one another and to be taught on topics such as livestock management, animal health care, agro-ecology, integrated farming, enterprise development, human nutrition, HIV, etc.
The participant families were to be trained and helped for 3 years.
A self-help group meeting and training session Image Self-help group members are reviewing progress of their savings
When the original heifers produce offspring, the offspring were then passed on to new families.
Similarly, micro-credits were provided as a form of revolving fund. When the original loans are paid off, the proceeds are used to on-lend to new families.
With this process, the original outlays can be used to help at least 44 more families.
Project members are participating in group activities and competitions
An outdoor group meeting and training session
Apart from tending their cattle, with the micro-credits many families have set up worm farms, raised pigs, ducks or started small-scale businesses such as incense making, mobile floating coffee shop, etc.
Not only having their living conditions improved thanks to the cattle and the small-scale business, by participating in group activities, trainings and discussions, these farmers are more aware of other issues such as gender equity, health, environment and community co-operation.
Offspring of the original calf is being passed on to a new family
The Foundation contributed AUD 18,000 to the project.
Many of the original heifers which were gifted to the participating peasants in June 2008 had produced offspring which were then passed on (i.e gifted) to new families.
Tam Nông is a district of Đồng Tháp province, part of the once very vast area called Đồng Tháp Mười (Plain of Reeds). The area is subject to annual flooding which lasts from 3 to 4 months. Sometimes the flood water reaches more than 3m high in some locations.
Cultivated lands are therefore only productive for about half of the year. Local population has to expend vast amounts of resources toward flood prevention and post-flood restoration. Consequently, no matter how hard the local population work, they remain the poorest of the poor.
The Tam Nông Hospital is an old hospital built in the early 80s, originally intended for 20 beds.
Tam Nông Hospital
Due to the huge demand for service from the local population, the hospital was subsequently modified and enlarged to accommodate 50 beds. It was still not large enough.
Everyday more than 70 patients are crowded into that small hospital. Many of these patients come from far-away isolated villages, arriving at the hospital on small rowing boats (xuồng)
Family members of the patients therefore stay at the hospital to look after their sick relatives.
A carer for a patient at the hospital has nowhere to rest but along the corridor of the hospital
Since there is not enough room in the hospital even for patients, these carers have nowhere to stay but most of the time in the open air. They are thus constantly subjected to all the ravages of the sun, rain, mosquitoes etc. Consequently 20% of these carers get sick themselves and become extra burdens for the hospital.
Many carers spend their nights on the floor, along the corridors of the hospital
To provide these carers with a place to rest while staying at the hospital to look after their sick relatives, the Foundation helped construct a 64-bed rest house.
The rest house under construction, at a site near the river bank
The rest house consisted of four 8x8m rooms and an attached toilet block. The building was built on reclaimed land on a riverbank, with brick walls, tiled floors, metal roofs and a total floor area of about 380 m2.
The Foundation engaged an independent architecture company to design the building and its voluntary engineering supporters in Vietnam to help supervise the construction.
The completed rest house on the opening day
A typical bedroom in the rest house
Inside the toilet block
The total cost of the building construction was VND 388 Million (approximately AUD 32000).
This was contributed by the Foundation and many of its members and supporters. The major supporter with an AUD 5000 contribution was Pathfinder Solutions Pty Ltd, an Australian marketing consultancy based in Melbourne.
The hospital contributed the land reclamation costs.
The local population contributed the lights and other fittings as well as beds and furniture inside the building.
The building construction started in Sept 2006 and completed in Dec 2006.
Dr Nguyễn Thiện Tống, Mr Mal Kelly (the Australian Consul General in HCMC) and the Director of the hospital cut ribbon to open the rest house
Mr Mal Kelly at the entrance of the rest house
Mr Mal Kelly and Dr Nguyen Thien Tong gave opening speeches
It was named “Aussie House” and officially opened on 12 January 2007 by Mr Mal Skelly, the Australian Consul General in HCMC.
Commemorative Plaque on the wall of the rest house
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