Vietnam is a wonderful place! From its ‘Wonders-of-the-World’ destinations to its bustling cities, it is nothing short of breathtaking. When I was there, I was on a journey with some ten other Canadian friends having the time of our lives. One of my friends even got engaged while on the trip. We felt truly blessed to be experiencing the wonders of Vietnam. My friends and I started our travels in Ho Chi Ming city and worked our way north. One of our most memorable stops was Nha Trang, a coastal town with jaw dropping views. Elegant shoreline, massages on the beach, little scooters zipping around: it was a tourists’ dream.
One morning I woke and decided to leave my travel companions and take the day for myself. I didn’t have any set plans but I did have an idea about wanting to give something back to the community. I asked a local taxi driver to take me to a nearby orphanage. The driver was noticeably shocked that I wasn’t asking for a short ride to the beach. Instead the driver and I traveled the bumpy and packed roads to our unpopular destination. The driver asked why I wanted to go to an orphanage and I explained to him what I was trying to do. He seemed touched by my intentions and gave me an incredible discount for the drive. Together we arrived at an orphanage run by Buddhist monks.
The place was clean, and as it happened, a new baby had just been dropped off a few days before. The little infant girl must have been less then 6 months old as she was still bottle fed and could not yet crawl. It struck me, ‘How could such a perfect little child find itself abandoned like this?’ ‘What must her parents have gone through for her to end up here?’ ‘Would she find a loving family that would help her grow strong and encourage her to chase her dreams?’ It was hard for me to communicate with the monks, but the taxi driver offered to translate for me.
I said that I wanted to donate enough money for the orphanage to buy the kids some extra food and some school books and learning supplies. The monk was so grateful she refused to let me leave without first joining the kids for lunch. I was deeply humbled by the experience.
I sat amongst the children to eat at a long wooden table. The kids were remarkably disciplined in manners and noticeably excited for their meal and the company of a foreign visitor. The children, it seemed, were treated very well and looked happy. But I was saddened to learn that many of the children would never find homes and that many of them had lived there from the earliest of ages through to adolescence.
As I said my goodbyes, my eyes watered as I saw the elated smiles of my little hosts. The monk told that me that it was the job of their orphanage to preach and instil the virtues of love and kindness within each child that found themselves in their care. It was a lesson that I too was taught and I carry it with me still.