Tag Archives: disability

Volunteer Vietnam

18 Jun

His name is Dang Van Quoc Viet, but he goes simply by Viet. He’s a child of war; what the Americans call the Vietnam War and what the Vietnamese call the American War. To him, it’s simply The War. He was one a year-old riding in a car with his family when the car hit a land mine. His father and brother were killed. He, his mother, and his unborn sister survived. It was a tragedy that caused his mother such mental distress that she could no longer care for him. He was a year old and found himself in an orphanage.

A year passed and his mother was doing better. She claimed him from the orphanage and he returned to live with her and his nine month-old sister. The war raged on for another five years. Things were tough. He finished school and went to work, saving his money with the goal of, someday, attending college. At twenty-six he enrolled in college and, at thirty, he graduated, proving that if you want something badly enough and work hard enough, you can do just about anything. He taught English at the university for some time before finding his true calling – philanthropy.

Truong and Viet

Truong, 15 years-old, and Viet, Director of Volunteer Vietnam

Viet is Founder and Director of Volunteer Vietnam, a non-profit organization supporting various orphanages, social centers, homeless centers and low-income schools. While some of the buildings Childrenare governmental, most of the staff is not. I had the opportunity to volunteer at the Social Support Center, which houses approximately two-hundred people, most of whom used to be homeless. The children, many of whom suffer from severe mental and physical disabilities which have been blamed on Agent Orange, include Hga, who is ten years-old and was found living on the streets. And Truong, who has no parents but does have a grandmother who left him a scar on his face due to her physical abuse. He’s fifteen but is about the size of a ten year-old.

Injured Child

This is Truc after she injured her foot. All I could do was hold her ankle and try to comfort her.

Then there’s Truc, ten years-old, who has severe mental and physical disabilities. She has spasms which sometimes cause her to injure herself. On the day I was there, we took her to the on-site hospital as she had injured her foot during a spasm and was crying inHurt Foot pain. The doctor applied medication to guard against infection and bandaged it and, for the next hour, I held her foot up to prevent her from re-injuring it, as well as from causing her discomfort. It was a small thing and I wished I could do more.

The center also houses abandoned, elderly people. Some are physically disable, some have lost their mental facilities either due to age or, in the case of some, due to trauma experienced from the war – they’ve never been the same.

 

Shower Bucket

Shower Bucket, soon to be replaced by an actual shower made possible by one volunteer and the contributions she collected

Showers

New showers being built

Besides the hospital, the building includes an area called “Step-by-Step” which is the physical therapy room, beds for children and adults, a schoolroom, in which Viet and other staff teach English, a newly built shower, made possible by Anouk, a volunteer from the Netherlands who raised money on a Facebook page when she saw elderly bathing from water in a bucket, as the facility had no showers. Other volunteers I met, Marikan and Danielle created a similar Facebook fundraising page which allowed for the purchase of wheelchairs and other needed equipment. Some of the money also went to painting the dank walls. While there, I also helped paint murals on the now more brightly colored blank walls in order to help make it a place of hope and comfort. And that’s what these people are doing here – creating hope and comfort where there was once hopelessness and pain. Nobody should be forgotten or abandoned.

PaintingYou may know that I once worked for Disney Cruise Line. We called each other our Ohana, a line taken from the movie Lilo and Stitch. In it, Lilo is heard to say, “Ohana means family. And family means, no one gets left behind or forgotten.” Viet truly believes this and, while their families seem to have forgotten this, Viet is making sure that his Ohana are taken care of.

When asked what Volunteer Vietnam needs, Viet responds, “Volunteers! Volunteers are our number-one need.” He makes it easy, as anyone who volunteers with them can pay a small fee which takes care of their housing at the Volunteer Center with shared rooms, air conditioning, showers and WiFi (I checked out the rooms and they’re basic, but nice and clean), three meals per-day, and transfers to and from the volunteer sites. Evenings and weekends are free to check out the surrounding area.

The second item on Viet’s wish-list is funding. They do so much with so little, but a Vietnamese Dong (the currency) can only be stretched so far.

This is not a place which exists to make life nicer for people. This place exists to make life livable for people who, through no fault of their own, are in dire straits and have little hope. If you have some extra cash, or even better, a desire to visit Vietnam and really make a difference, please consider Volunteer Vietnam.

For more information, please visit their website at http://www.volunteervietnam.vn/

Or their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/vnvolunteer.org?fref=ts

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A Special School for Special People in Bali

29 Apr

If you’re a regular reader, you know that Rebel-With-A-Cause is part of a larger project called www.DropMeAnywhere.com where readers choose where I travel to without a plan. This time, the readers have chosen to drop me in Bali, Indonesia. It was there that I had the chance to volunteer with a wonderful organization helping to change the lives of some special people. It’s in Ubud, a town in Bali, and it serves a community that can use all the help it can get; the mentally disabled.

It’s called Sjaki-Tari-Us and it’s a school for mentally disabled children and teens. Sjaki-Tari-Us is the brainchild of Thais and Karen van Harte. Thais and his twin brother Sjaki are the children of a Dutch father and an Indonesian mother and, while they grew up in The Netherlands, they visited Bali often as children and adults.

As Thais and his wife Karen had a child, Tari, who was born Down’s Syndrome, they and their friends decided to investigate the quality of special education services while on a visit to Bali. What they found was not great. While there are schools for these kids, the teachers aren’t trained in special ed. and students must meet minimum requirements such as a measured IQ of 55. If they don’t meet the qualifications, they have no opportunity to receive an education.

face paintingI visited Sjaki-Tari-Us on King’s Day, a day of celebration in the Netherlands and therefore, a day a celebration at Sjaki-Tar-Us. The early morning was spent in the classroom with five and six year-olds, where they learned how to introduce themselves, how to say the date and worked on writing letters of the alphabet. Beginning in the late-morning, a party was underway with sack-races, ring-tosses and face-painting. Just like other kids, these kids need both structure and physical activity and the staff at Sjaki Tari-Us provides just the right balance.

Thais and Karen founded Sjaki-Tari-Us in 2006 and named it after Thais’ brother, Sjaki, who died in 2002, Thais and Karen’s daughter, Tari, and Us, as in all of us. The first school was located in Singaraja and they soon opened one in Ubud. While the Ubud school is the larger of the two, both schools are still currently operating. The Singaraje school has five full-time teachers, twenty-five smaller children and three teens, while the Ubud school currently has seven teachers, twenty-five to thirty younger students and thirteen teenagers. Interns from Holland work at both schools as part of their university program

InternsSjaki-Tari-Us provides education to all. Parents can choose to enroll their struggling kids here with the goal of getting them qualified for the special education governmental schools within a few years. If a child does not qualify for the government run schools, they’re welcome to stay at Sjaki-Tari-Us. There is a small, one-time fee for the first school T-shirt and shorts, and then it is free to attend. And if a family can’t afford the initial fee, they won’t be turned down.

ClassroomThe youngest kids – up to eight years old – participate in “Play-Learn Groups” which provide two to three lessons each the morning and include play as part of the educational process, as these kids tend to learn differently than thers. Kids are split into groups depending on their disability and ability to learn and sit still.

The program for teenagers concentrates more on life-skills such as personal hygiene and job training, which they can use working in the on-site restaurant, of which all profits go back to the school. They’re also taught craft skills which are common in Bali and are sold at the Sjaki-Tari-Us gift shop in order to help support the school. Teenagers also have the chance to play sports which helps them socialize, learn teamwork and increase their fitness levels.

Finally, they offer a “Teach the Teacher Program” which educates Balinese teachers on teaching those with mental disabilities. Knowledge is then passed on from teacher to teacher and adds to the wealth of information and understanding about people with special needs.

StudentsSjaki-Tari-Us is supported by the original foundation and the on-site gift shop and restaurant, as well as private donations. While the school is happy to accept school supplies, money is the best gift, as it can be used for a variety of needs from gas for the small shuttle bus which picks up students from further out whose parents have no transportation, to cleaning supplies, to paying the minimal staff in the restaurant, to funding for field trips. And if you’re ever in Bali, they’d love for you to visit one of their schools take a tour or eat at the restaurant. By helping these special people live up to their full potential, the people at Sjaki-Tari-Us are doing important work and all support is greatly appreciated.

To find out more about Sjaki-Tari-Us, and how you can help, visit their website at http://www.sjakitarius.nl/

Also check out their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/SjakiTariUs

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