After many months of planning, the three of us went on a "Far North Vietnam" trip. The purpose of this trip was to visit Huong La, the first Home for Disabled Children run by the Catholic Nuns of Bac Ninh Diocese.
Huong La is a small remote village outside Bac Ninh province, located next to the hometown of Saint Canh and Saint Thinh, who were Catholic Martyrs. In 1997, ALA received $700 USD of the retirement money saved by an elderly priest, who asked us to give to the nuns in Huong La. We were very touched by the loving kindness of those who left and went far away, yet still remembered their birthplace of poverty. That year the nuns were very poor. Four Sisters would share a small quarter of damp, dark walls without electricity. By bringing this small gift from the old priest to these nuns, we were fortunate to get to know this people of this convent. To know the extent of number of handicapped children in the area, we asked the pastors in the surrounding areas to invite families with children with disabilities to come to the convent to receive gifts from ALA. As a result, we found out that there are many poor families in this area who have one or more disabled children. We encouraged the Mother Superior of the convent to send some Sisters to school to learn how to provide care of disabled children in preparation for the establishment of a charity house. Through many difficulties in the early years, ALA continued to provide unwavering support every year since the establishment of the Home for Disabled Children in 2005.
After a simple lunch, we were given a tour of Huong La facilities. The aluminum beds ALA had bought a decade ago had broken down; the simple storage cabinets for the children’s clothes had lost their hinges... Our ALA special benefactors Mr. and Mrs. Johnny & La To, who came along with us, commented that the place was just simply too poor. Johnny suggested that we should provide additional assistance for the Home. We know that most of the people who left Vietnam in 1975 were from the South, so if and when they came back they would only go to the South. Perhaps, that is why this Home in the far corner of North Vietnam, has received of little help. After visiting the dining room and the children's bedrooms, we were treated to the joyful and innocent variety show performed by the children with cerebral palsy. After many strenuous years and despite of her advanced age, Sister Hai still has a gentle smile of love and patience. Years of living in poverty, Sister Hai had never asked for a vacation.