Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Dec. 18 - more aid to villages

Today we woke up early and went outside of the city again. We had planned to visit three different villages over the next three days delivering food and supplies ourselves, but the government of course had different ideas. Another eye-opening thing about being here is witnessing a different kind of government in action. They want to help their people, but if it is coming from anywhere other than their own country, they are very wary. And understandably so. But it is this thoroughness in checking out everything that comes into the country that has made a lot of our plans different than what we thought they would be. Rather than delivering the food ourselves, we had to have the food delivered to a government building and the people from the villages who would be receiving the food had to come there on their own. Then, while the government officials stood by, we handed out food to the 20 families that had been approved to receive. Families that had anywhere from 4 to 7 children got 3 packages of cheese, 2 boxes of powdered milk, 1 dozen eggs, and a kilo of rice. That food will feed most of them for over a month. It's great that we provided them with those supplies, but it makes me wonder what will happen once we leave? They get a lot of charity, and of course they make some money for themselves, but I wish there was a way we could help provide them with something more sustainable, so that it's not just us handing them food whenever we come to help them.

After the government oversaw us handing out the food to the families, we then got on the bus and went to the villages to visit a few of the families who received aid. (The villagers, however, had to strap the bags of rice and supplies to their bikes and motorcycles and carry them back to their homes themselves. Doesn't make much sense, but we have to comply with the government or else we can't provide any help at all.) We drove many more kilometers away from the city and eventually split into two groups and were directed around a tiny village where we saw how the families we had given food to actually lived. 

Just like in the other areas, children were running around everywhere and so curious about us. When they looked at me with their hopeful little faces, it was hard not to pick them up right there and take them all with me. I wish I could give every one of them the life that they deserve. Even their parents wish the same thing; on more than one occasion parents have offered their children for us to take them to the U.S. In this village, we were actually invited into the houses, even though half of our group could barely fit into a living space that usually holds up to 10 people. For some of the families, their entire house was the size of my bedroom at home. And the kitchen is outside, with one water pump for the whole village. I hope that some of the pictures can be passed along. I don't like taking pictures myself in the villages. There are so many of us who have cameras, I feel like it is overwhelming to the people there. Also, I can't focus on talking to the people there if I'm worrying about taking pictures of everything. Especially in these small towns, being able to talk to the people is an incredible experience. Through the translator provided to us by the government, we were able to hear the stories of 6 different families. I wouldn't give up that opportunity for anything.

When we returned from the villages, we had some time to ourselves, which is pretty much a luxury around here. We are always are doing so much in all of our days, it is hard enough to even relax for a second. And my mind is always going a mile a minute with every new place I visit or thing I see. I am in constant amazement here of just how different things are here. And really, the poverty here is how the majority of the world lives on a day-to-day basis. That is something I am still trying to grasp entirely.

We're off to eat dinner at another Vietnamese restaurant. Last night we went to a traditional family style Vietnamese place. We had to bring our translator along just to read the menu! It's great being able to try so many new things, but every time I sit down to eat, I think about the children at the orphanage and the poor people of the villages that we've seen and talked to. They aren't really that far away from us as we stay in Hue. And even when I go back to America, I know they won't be far from my mind. 

I hope everyone is doing well at home. It's weird to think that Christmas is in just a few days. That is probably the last thing on my mind here. I can't believe we only have a few more days in Hue. I already miss it. On the 20th we'll be heading to another city, Hoi An, to stay for a night, and then we'll fly back to Ho Chi Minh City for another night before we fly back home. We'll be visiting another orphanage and a few more villages along the way. Hopefully I'll be home on the 23rd if we don't get stuck in the Chicago airport they day before Christmas Eve.

1 comment:

Masta P said...

Hello Rachel and a pleasant day to you and the crew,

I have so enjoyed the blog, what a wonderful way to vicariously hop on that scooter with you and Sophia, although it might be a bit cumbersome... I'll bet some folks there can carry just about anything on their bikes? I hope "THE MAN" doesn't slow y'all down too much, wherever you are the government is sure to be close by, just remember that everything you do is of great service and value to these friendly people. I liked your thoughts about somehow providing more sustainable aid, I am sure that you feel like you are oofering more first-aid than true healing. We here in Atlanta are giving gifts through the Heifer Project a group that supplies actual animals to rural people so that they can self provide protein and also provide some ready cash through sales of milk, eggs, meat, or other products from their animals. It is a neat idea and they have a pretty cool website.
Take care, live well, and see the good in others. We are proud of you.

Graham Penniman & Family