We had the great fortune of visiting three orphanages located near La Gi, Vietnam in February 2018. These schools are directly supported by donations from Abandoned Little Angels. My wife Lanh and I did not know what to expect, as our visit was arranged on very short notice by Lucy Nguyen. Also, it was just a few days before the start of Tet – the Vietnamese New Year festivities. Many people were already heading back to their family home locations, and businesses were beginning to shut down for the Tet holiday.
We were visiting our family in Phan Thiet, which is about 4 hours drive time straight east from HCM/Saigon to the Vietnam coast. Phan Thiet is famous for its fish sauce, and for being on the way to Mui Ne – a coastal fishing town-turned tourist location, which has grown up tremendously since our last visit just 3 years earlier. La Gi is located about 1 hour southeast of Phan Thiet. It is also a coastal fishing town, and estimates put the number of people living there at around 100,000.
As with our first trip in 2015, Sister (Sr) Ninh, from the Sisters of the Order of Mary Queen, arranged our visits wonderfully, and with very little notice. Our first stop was to a large school/orphanage, where the children were very excited to have us arrive – they were waiting all lined up to greet us, shaking hands and lots of hugs.
The sisters had already prepared bags of goodies for all the children, which we then passed out to the kids, who were very excited to get these treats right before Tet. There was a real sense of community at this facility that goes beyond words. Several times we were close to tears when a child we were holding asked if they could come home with us. The love and gratitude we felt from the children, and from the staff towards the children, was very touching.
We toured the school facilities and saw direct benefits from ALA donations there: new beds, a computer lab and a room where the students were learning to sew. But we also saw many other issues that they could really use help on, including their only large stove not working. The sisters were cooking their meals on individual charcoal pots (nồi đất), and many of the bed mats needed replacement. We left donations, but more could be quickly put to very good use.
As difficult as it was to leave this group, we then went to a second, much smaller orphanage. Here, many of the children had already left to return to their home villages for the Tet holiday. Although many are orphans, these facilities also take in children when the parents simply can’t care for them as they would like, and school would not be possible. Many of the children have special needs (this is true at all facilities we visited). Once again, the gift bags were handed out to very excited children. The children showed us some of the flowers they proudly make and sell, and some of their classroom work spaces.
Our final stop for the day was to a third facility. Because our visits at each of the first two ran much longer than we had anticipated (it was very hard to tear ourselves away from these wonderful kids!), many of the children had already left to go home for Tet. Only those that live full time at the school remained. But once again, we were welcomed with open arms, by the sisters and the children.
One minor point to make is that we had wanted to purchase gifts for the children before we visited, but Sr insisted that it was all taken care of by ALA – they provided us with bags of treats and supplies for the children. I believe this makes a lot of sense so that the staff and loving Sisters can control what the children receive, it is consistent, and no child gets left out. Plus, it really simplifies a visit! We also contributed money to the facilities we visited, but that is an easy thing to do, compared with the care the Sisters took in preparing for our visit, and for the great love and compassion they show to the children.
We strongly encourage anyone that can visit Vietnam, to arrange to visit some of the children we are helping with our donations to ALA. It truly made us feel connected to the hearts and souls of the children, and we feel very deeply committed to increasing our involvement with Abandoned Little Angels in the coming years. We also look forward to visiting more orphanages on our next trip to Vietnam. We implore you to continue (and stretch higher with) your donations - we have seen the huge changes it has made in the children’s lives, through the great work that Abandoned Little Angels does, which is only made possible through your support and donations. Through your donations to Abandoned Little Angels, the children are truly well cared for, loved, and are transformed from abandoned little angels into loved and inspired little angels. John and Lanh Bain, Houston, Texas