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Introduction

About an hour from the bustling tourist mecca of Hoi An lies the farming community of Phu Ninh. There are no five-star hotels here or restaurants with white tablecloths; in fact, you won’t find it on Trip Advisor, because, if you are a tourist, there is no reason to come here. But some of us have found our way to Phu Ninh, to a very special place where 22 children ranging in age from 2 to 17 have found a safe refuge and a loving home.

When Thao, a Vietnamese woman whose family owns Lowlands, a successful restaurant in the center of Hoi An, introduced us to the Home, she referred to it as an orphanage. As I learned more about the children, however, I discovered that most of the children are not orphans. Although a few have lost both parents, others still have a mother or a father or extended family. In all cases, the families are in distress, either from extreme poverty or medical problems, and are unable to care for their children. Mr. Hung, the director, along with the four wonderful women who make up his staff, offer these children a nurturing place to live and grow until they can be safely returned to their families.

The accommodations are basic but clean and cheerful, with colorful murals on the walls. The children look happy and healthy, and they are remarkably well-behaved. I have spent many hours there and never saw a quarrel amongst the children or heard a harsh word from an adult. They all bicycle to local schools every morning. The Home has quite a few books, and we observed many of the children sitting together quietly on their play equipment and reading after the noon meal.

The needs are quite modest. It costs about 1,000,000 VND, or about $45 US, to support a child for one month. Our group has an initial goal of raising 4,000,000 VND, about $180 US, every month to help Mr. Hung make up his monthly budget. If we are able to raise more than that, it would enable him either to take in additional children or to improve the children’s diet. Mr. Hung buys as much food as possible from local farmers. It’s a win-win for the Home and the community; he gets the best possible prices for food, while the local farmers have an outlet for their products.

Items such as clothing, bedding, and tableware are not needed at the moment, but shampoo, toothbrushes, and toothpaste would be welcome. In addition, Mr. Hung let us know that he needs a large table or desk and chairs so that the older children will have an appropriate place to study. In keeping with our intention of sourcing products from the community, we have asked Mr. Hung to get bids from local carpenters.

We will be in touch with Mr. Hung on a monthly basis to discuss how we can best support the children either with cash donations or with items that could be donated by the local expat community. If you have questions or would like to make a donation or to arrange a visit, please contact me: Esther Bedik, estherbstl@gmail.com, 84-1567033002. You can also donate by copying and pasting the link on the right side of this page. I assure you that your entire donation will be used to support these children.

Thank you for your interest and your help! We’ll keep you posted.

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School Fees: Mission Accomplished

By Esther Bedik

School in Vietnam is not expensive by Western standards, but it is not free. Inability to pay prevents many children, particularly those in the impoverished rural areas, from attending school. For Mr. Hung, Director of the Phu Ninh Children’s Home, the children’s education is a top priority, but the costs of school fees, books, and uniforms for almost 20 children loom large every fall.

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Making sure that the children get a good education is a goal that is also close to the hearts of our Australian supporters, Jenni and Terry Coombs, who are both educators themselves. Jenni and Terry took on the challenge of raising the necessary funds for the upcoming school year. Thanks to their hard work and the generosity of their friends, many of whom are also educators, they have managed to raise enough money to cover the educational expenses for all the PNCH children who will attend school in 2018.

Last month, five local supporters of the Children’s Home were able to bring the first fruits of the Australian efforts to the Home—enough money to cover books and uniforms for everyone.

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On Sunday, August 19, we will have the pleasure of bringing a second installment, which Jenni and Terry raised by having a celebratory dinner at a Chinese restaurant. This donation will cover the children’s school fees.

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In addition, we will make our regular monthly donation of four million VND (about USD $180), which helps to improve the children’s nutritional intake. Mr. Hung and his staff make every effort to stretch the food budget. When he tells us the rock-bottom prices he pays for fresh fruits and vegetables (those that he cannot grow in the Home’s garden), I am truly amazed. As we have mentioned previously, when food is purchased locally, not only is the food fresh and the prices favorable, but we also benefit the local community.

Phu Ninh2We warmly welcome anyone who is interested in meeting and interacting with the children and chatting with Mr. Hung and his staff to join us this Sunday, August 19. Please contact me for details: estherbstl@gmail.com or call/Zalo/WhatsApp/SMS to 01657033002. We look forward to meeting you!

For those of you who would like to support the Home financially, donations can be made via PayPal or GoFundMe using the links on this site. Thank you in advance for your generosity

HE SHOOTS…HE SCORES…AND THE CROWD GOES WILD!!

June 8

There’s nothing like a kid and a ball. This 21-month-old boy was brought to the Phu Ninh Children’s Home a few months ago. During our previous visits, we noticed that he always seemed sad and withdrawn. We had never seen him smile — that is, until he booted one of the new soccer balls right into the goal and turned around to us with that big grin, basking in our cheers. Call it soccer, call it football; it clearly did the trick for this little guy.

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The new mini soccer goals that we brought to the Home on Sunday, June 10, were constructed by Phil Neiland, the owner of International Football Education and creator of innovative programs to expand youth soccer in Da Nang (see IFE Soccer Vietnam on Facebook). Many thanks to Phil and to an anonymous donor from Hoi An who contributed the netting, two new soccer balls, and a pump.

 

June 2

This visit felt a bit like Christmas, if you disregard the steamy weather, that is. Linda LeTourneau brought two badminton sets, along with toy cars donated by Keith Ogden of Hoi An and other toys and art supplies donated by another Hoi An friend. The younger boys eagerly snatched up the cars, while one of them cleverly transformed the packaging into a space helmet. The younger girls took up the badminton racquets and even coaxed me into playing. The very youngest children were fascinated by Linda’s gift of a talking cat, which she hopes will encourage their language development. Meanwhile, the older girls gravitated around Mark Stapelkamp for an impromptu art lesson with their new art supplies.

Mark was a first-time visitor who was equally comfortable sharing his art skills with the girls and his soccer moves with the boys. Mark and his partner Robin Barnes, who gets the credit for all the great photographs of this visit, have signed on as regular donors to our monthly support campaign. We thank them for their financial support, of course, and appreciate them even more for their generosity of spirit during our visits to Phu Ninh.

June 5

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This month, in addition to giving our regular monthly donation toward the children’s food and other expenses, I had the pleasure of presenting Mr. Hung with a very generous donation towards the new dining/study tables for the older children. A very big thank you goes to Cyril Quynhon and another donor from Hoi An who wishes to remain anonymous. The high school students are delighted to finally have a suitable place to study. Please note that Cyril has a number of good-quality bicycles and motorbikes available to rent, with the proceeds going to various charitable causes in the local community and in the Central Highlands. If you or a friend need a rental while in Hoi An, you can reach Cyril on Facebook and send him a message.

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We also got to see the swank new refrigerator (and refurbished older refrigerator) made possible through the generous donations last month from Big Bear Kitchen and four Da Nang families. Thank you once again!

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And I cannot close without mentioning and thanking Nhung, much-admired “”Chị,” or older sister, to the high school girls and our very competent Vietnamese-English translator. We are so grateful to her for smoothing our communications!

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Donations can be made to PNCH through the GoFundMe or PayPal buttons on the right-hand side of this page.

100% of your donations are used to support the children of Phu Ninh Children’s Home.

If you have any questions or would like to be part of our monthly visits to Phu Ninh, please contact me directly: estherbstl@gmail.com.

 

 

May Visit to Phu Ninh Children Home Reported by Esther Bedik

Mother’s Day is not celebrated in Viet Nam, but it was on my mind as we set out for Phu Ninh last Sunday. The children we were going to see no longer live with their mothers, having been separated from them by death, illness, accident, or poverty. Although a mother can never be replaced, the staff at the Children’s Home are doing a wonderful job of providing the children with affection and security, along with basic material needs. On a day that honors both those who bear children and those who care for them, I felt very happy to be able to support their efforts.

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PNCH’s newest and youngest charge is rocked to sleep by his caregiver.

Five of us (Esther, Lloyd, Thao, Nhung, and Linda) were greeted warmly by the children and staff. Linda Létourneau, who has spent several months in Hoi An each year for the past several years, joined our group for the first time. Having had quite a bit of experience volunteering at the Hoi An Orphanage, Linda came prepared, showering the kids with many bottles of brightly colored nail polish. The kids—older and younger, girls and boys—had a great time jazzing it up with fanciful color combinations.

 

After lunch, Linda arranged for ice cream for everyone, a rare and welcome treat on a sweltering summer day. Linda has also kindly provided funding for two new fans for the children’s sleeping quarters and for a new basketball hoop for the play area. Many thanks, Linda, and we look forward to seeing you again next month!

 

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Friends cool down with an ice cream treat and a swing.

 

“Big sister” Nhung is very popular with the older girls. She is learning some sign language so that she can communicate more easily with Han, who is hearing impaired. I asked what they were talking about. “Personal things,” she told me.

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“Big sister” Nhung chatting with Han, who is hearing impaired.

 

Happily, this month, in addition to our regular contribution of four million VND toward the children’s nutrition, we had another very special gift for the Children’s Home. In April, we had learned that two of the Home’s three refrigerators had broken down, and replacements were urgently needed with the hot summer months coming up. Robin Barnes reached out to friends in the Da Nang community about this particular need, and the response was amazing. One refrigerator was generously sponsored by Big Bear Kitchen (so appropriate considering the delicious yogurt, peanut butter, marinara sauce, and pesto that comes out of their kitchen!), and the other through the collective contributions of four Da Nang-based families. A big thank you to each and every donor for your kindness! Stay tuned next month for photos of the new acquisitions.

 

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Thao and Esther present Mr. Hung with funding for two new refrigerators, thanks to the generosity of Big Bear Kitchen and four Da Nang families, and our monthly contribution to supplement the children’s nutrition.

 

We enjoyed a simple lunch of noodles, meat broth, and veggies fresh from the garden on two of the new tables that have recently arrived at the Home. Mr. Hung ordered four large tables and 20 high-backed wooden chairs from a local carpenter so that the older children would have both a more home-like setting for their meals and also an expansive surface on which to study. One of our goals is to help offset some of the cost of the new furniture over the next two months.

 

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Beautiful new wooden tables, locally sourced, make dining and studying a pleasure for the older children.

 

Our next visit is scheduled for June 10. Please call/message/email if you are interested in joining us or if you have any questions about our group’s activities. Donations can be made via GoFundMe or PayPal. Once again, our deepest thanks to those of you who have so generously donated your time and money to this good cause!

PLEASE DONATE BY CLICKING EITHER THE
PAYPAL OR GOFUNDME LINK ON THE RIGHT

Community Day in Preparation for Tết | 11 February 2018 – Reported by Robin Barnes

Community Day in Preparation for Tết | 11 February 2018 – Reported by Robin Barnes

On a beautiful Sunday just before the Tết holiday I joined Esther and Lloyd for their monthly trip to the Phú Ninh Children’s Home.

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Tết, Vietnam’s major annual holiday, is held annually during the Lunar New Year and is a time for family and friends to wish each other good health and luck for the new year. Our visit coincided with a Tất Niên (“Before New Year’s Eve”) community day in which the resident children gave out new blankets and food to less fortunate members of district. It was moving to see the children performing this act of service and to witness the warm interactions amongst many generations of community members.

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While the children were distributing donations, I was able to tour the PNCH facilities and saw that they have ample clothing, basic amenities, and cheerful spaces for sleeping and studying. They also have a collection of donated fitness equipment that serves as a physical therapy center for sick and injured children in the local community. The outside area of the home has a field for sports, shady trees and swings for reading, and colorful playground equipment. Surrounding it all are serene rice paddies and quiet country roads.

Later that morning over a simple but delicious meal cooked by the staff, we discussed with Mr. Hung what immediate needs and longer term vision we might be able to support. Day-to-day needs are modest: shampoo, toothpaste, and toothbrushes, and if possible, an adult-sized table and chairs for the older children to use when doing their homework.

We learned that it costs approximately 1,000,000 VND or about $45 USD to support one child for one month. The children who live at PNCH attend a local certified school and the majority of their food is purchased from area farmers. The standards provided for the children on these efficiently used funds is truly impressive. The current group of 22 children are adequately provided for through the current level of donations, however they are the maximum number of children the current budget can support. With a sustained source of increased annual donations, Mr. Hung and his team can serve more children in need of the vital care and services that PNCH can uniquely provide.

The commitment of my friends Esther and Lloyd — along with their fundraising project partners Jenni, Terry, Cyril, Van and Thao — to transforming not only the present, but the future of these vulnerable children inspired me to help their efforts. The bright and affectionate children and dedicated staff inspired me to become a donor. I have no doubt that my support will make an important impact and be fully directed to the children’s needs.

I encourage you to keep in touch by subscribing to this blog and if you haven’t yet had an opportunity to visit the Phú Ninh Children’s Home in person, we welcome you to join us! Please get in touch and we’ll arrange a date.

Robin

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Tet Party 21 January 2018 – Reported by Jenni and Terry Coombs

On the 21st of January we ventured off into rural Vietnam to visit the beautiful children at the Phu Ninh Children’s Home. This was our third visit with our Vietnamese family friends Thao & Van. We were warmly welcomed by the children, the staff, Mr. Hung and some local women & their children.

The purpose of this visit was to enjoy a pre-TET celebration party with the children.

We were also asked if we would like to donate 1,000,000vnd for Mr. Hung to purchase much needed bikes so the children can get to school. Terry & I were more than happy to accept this request.

 

There was a woman with a very sick child in desperate need of 1,000,000vnd for life saving medical equipment. While it was quite uncomfortable for us (Westerners) to hand over cash to one women when there were clearly others also in need, we were assured that it was not a problem. So, between Thao, Lloyd, Esther, Terry & I we gathered together the money. The smile on her face and her genuine gratitude was heartwarming.

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During the visit we also donated the 50+ children’s books written in English that came along in our luggage. This was something we discussed when we visited back in October. The children were very eager to look at the books even though only a few children can currently read English. Hopefully the books will be ‘read’ and loved by the children now that we are home in Australia.

It was also an opportunity to take photos of the individual children in readiness for the fundraising project which I began in July 2017 with the sale of many boxes of sunglasses.

It was quite a successful visit with our new supporters, Lloyd & Esther, who have also become our new friends with a shared passion for supporting this very worthy cause.

Kind regards,

Terry & Jenni