Friday, August 11, 2006

Chua Duc Son Orphanage

On Friday morning we headed out to Duc Son Pagoda and an orphanage that a nun there has been operating for over twenty-one years. She is another one of these amazing Buddhist women in Vietnam, having done humanitarian work since war times, and is responsible for building perhaps one of the most advanced orphanages in the entire region. Pictured here is Anna Nguyen, Hue Pham, me and Scuppy as well as nuns and kids from the orphanage, with Hong Anh behind the camera.

This orphanage in particular is serving 200 children, many of whom lost their parents during the catastrophic floods of 1999. The pagoda and orphanage has also established 85 satellite schools and orphanages in the severely impoverished highlands. Thich Co Minh Tu has also started a kind of Head Start program for kids from poorer families who live in areas where there were previously no kindergartens. She also organizes for school supplies and uniforms to be provided to the families free of cost. She spoke at length about showing all children as much compassion as we're able to give, and how she's simply harnessed this compassion from those around her, that there are many hearts involved in her operation. She proudly told us of her children who are now grown, having attended university, who often come back to help run the orphanage in which they were raised. There was a special dorm room for those children who come home to visit from college during their breaks.

Pictured here is Anna with one of the infants who was born with a severely cleft palate. This condition is especially common in children who were exposed to dioxin as fetuses, but it can be fixed through a relatively simple reconstructive surgery. This is perhaps one of the least severe but most common manifestations in children exposed to dioxin left as a byproduct of Agent Orange. Anna is going to focus her independent study project on the orphanage, perhaps looking at the kind of organizations that support such operations and their history with regard to the activities of Buddhist nuns and orphanages during the war and since 1975.

I think we were all very impressed by the clean and bright conditions at the orphanage. Having seen a few in the past, I expected to see a building and conditions much poorer than the average place. In fact, I think many of these children probably get a better education and learn more here from the nuns than do children in the countryside around here. Pictured here is our group with one of Scuppy's new friends at the orphanage and one of the junior nuns Co Lien Nhu at the orphanage.


Blogger size and fit said...

This is an amazing place, so full of love and compassion. Really did change my life.

9:46 AM  
Blogger No Ordinary said...

Our family volunteered at Duc Son Pagoda in 2008. It was even more amazing for us because we have a child with a disability and we got to see the program at the Pagoda for disabled children. Check out our blog entry at Go to the South East Asia tab and check out the entry dated November 12, 2008.

10:45 AM  
Blogger Richard Warren said...

HI David, I hope all is well with you and your family. Your observations on Duc Son Pagoda are well founded. It is a place of love, hope, and family. Please see their and their face book page - Duc Son Pagoda Orphanage.
You will see many of the children from your initial visit now grown and doing very well. The baby with the cleft palette has had one operation and we are now scheduling for the second. She is doing very well and has a wonderful life.
We all hope you can return at some time,

Thank you,
Richard Warren, volunteer

6:52 PM  

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