I am not a professional writer; however, I would like to write something about my trip to Vietnam with Dr. Nga Vu on the occasion of Father Martino Nguyen Ba-Thong's 10th anniversary of his Priesthood.
Having known Father Martino since 2009, and I have also traveled with them a few times to Vietnam. This time, I departed from Los Angeles and met Father Martino and Dr. Nga in Taipei, and the three of us flied to Vietnam together. As soon as the airplane landed, Nga and I really felt the heat of summer. We were slowly moved through the customs while Father Martino quickly passed through and preceded to the baggage claim area. When we finished with the paper work, Father Martino had gathered all luggages, ready to proceed to the car. Yen-Thao and Hien-Thuc, a famous Vietnamese singer, were waiting outside to welcome us. They took us to the "5 Tháng 2" (February 5) on Võ Văn Tần street, a very beautiful fashion shop located in District 3, and this is also the headquarter of "Nhịp Cầu Hạnh Phúc" (OBV Vietnam). I then went to lunch with Nga and Yen-Thao, stopped by Thiên Ý Spa (one of OBV's businesses) to visit employees there. I was so surprised to see a very modern and high-class spa. I never thought that Father Martino could open these businesses. It was Nga, who spent her own money for OBV to open these shops to create jobs for local people and OBV's children.
Dr. Nga Vu, MD - first chair of the board and biggest supporter of OBV in the last 14+ year - paid a visit to OBV houses and took the children on a beach vacation before she takes on another "vocation!"
Here is her reflection!
It's been a long while since I shared with you news about the OBV VN girls' Krav Maga/self defense class.
They've been training with me for the past five months now, and they're at a level of fitness most adults 2x/3x their age have never reached. I gave the older girls their first exam, a grueling two hour marathon that tested their technique, stamina, endurance, and will power.
6/7 of the girls passed. I couldn't be more proud of all of them. In a couple of weeks, they will start learning ground defense.
You want to see what a confident teenage girl looks like? Take a look at them training in my class.
March 23, 2014
November 9, 2013
We were back at the OBV house today.
Thuy resumed her work seeing the girls for individual check-ups and physical exams. I taught two Krav Maga classes today. Shortly after teaching our first class last week, I decided it best to divide the class into two groups based on age (older and younger) to provide a more tailored and personal experience.
Shortly after lunch, we inquired about the handprints on the wall closest to us. We learned that OBV was having each of the girls place a painted handprint on the wall to spell out the letters "OBV."
Like a five-year-old, I blurted out "Aww I want one...," not realizing that OBV actually did want their volunteers to participate, and that they had paint right outside.
Sister Ngoc took me outside to paint my hand. The paint was readily available, as the kids made their own handprints just a few days earlier.
Students line up for their first class
Sunday, November 3, 2013
[NOTE: Pictures of OBV girls are taken from the rear so as to protect their identity]
We recently moved into our new place in District 1, a milestone that meant that we were finally ready to get to work. From our first meeting at the One Body Village house we concluded that our Krav Maga classes would be regulated to the weekend so as not to disrupt the girls' academic studies. This past Saturday, the first of November, would be the day when the girls foray into Krav.
October 31, 2013
Last week, Father Martino--a.k.a. "Cha Thong" as he is called in Vietnamese--invited us to join him on an impromptu investigation mission. We travelled for six hours to another province to meet with someone who contacted him via social media with a tip about young girls being trafficked to China.
Our role was to shadow him and learn what he does. We were to provide assistance when needed.
Father Martino met the informant, a 12-year old girl, who explained that she was accosted by three young males a few months ago. One of them said that "if she behaved [for them], then she wouldn't be sent to China like the other girls."
Oct 21, 2014
Father Martino Nguyen Ba-Thong arrived late Monday evening for one of his regular visits to One Body Village. We met with him at 8:30 AM Tuesday morning for our first in-person meeting since taking on this opportunity.
Prior to this meeting, all of our interactions with him and the rest of the OBV board have been either through phone or email. It's actually quite amazing how we've been able to build trust and coordinate everything that has transpired so far without actually meeting face-to-face. We didn't know them, and they certainly didn't know us, so clear communication aside, both sides had to rely on trust and luck that we all carried the best intentions for one another.
Oct 19, 2013
The following post includes a bit of difficult and uncomfortable content. We invite you to read at your own discretion.
Arriving at the OBV House
Early on our first Saturday morning in Vietnam, Thuy, OBV employees An and Quynh Anh, and I traveled to the OBV compound.
We took the local bus, an hour-long ride that took us through multiple districts and rural backroads to our final destination. Upon arriving, we then had another short walk to the compound.
Taking the bus to the OBV house
We were greeted at the gate by a spirited young girl, no more than five or six years old, who flashed us a smile as she struggling with the gate's lock. A few more girls poured out of the house to get a glimpse of their foreign guests. We were soon welcomed by the nun who oversees the place. The nun is an older woman who clearly shows the demeanor of a loving yet stern mother who has her hands full with the responsibility of raising 20 girls.
July 1, 2013 - Requesting to Teach Krav Maga
I recently asked the leadership of One Body Village if I could teach Krav Maga to the young women being rehabilitated on the compound. I'm still waiting for their reply.
I hope that they approve. Krav Maga would be useful skill for them to practice and have. I know I'd get a lot of personal development out of the opportunity, as well.
On Monday, December 16 2013, Huong gave a somber, tearful goodbye to her sisters, a group of girls she met no more than a week prior. She left the OBV Cambodia house and returned home to her father.
In our last visit to Cambodia I detailed the account of Huong who would become the newest member of the OBV Cambodia house. Linh, the Director for OBV Cambodia, explained in the podcast that followed the article what it was like to work with the family on an agreement to have Huong join the OBV family.
On the first full day of our three-day mission trip to One Body Village Cambodia, Linh Doan, Director of OBV Cambodia, brought us along on a house visit where we would be picking up the newest member of the OBV Cambodia house.
Huong (name changed to protect privacy), 14, faces a tough decision: Should she stay with OBV in the Cambodia house, or should she move back to Vietnam and join the OBV Vietnam house. Staying with OBV Cambodia allows her to be close to her father, but she would have to start back in first grade since she doesn't know Khmer. Going back to Vietnam allows her to continue her education where she left off and provides her with more career opportunities when she's older, but she'll be very far away from the comfort of her father.
The George Mason University's Vietnamese Student Association (GMU VSA) hosted the annual semi formal banquet fundraising for their Philanthropy Project in the evening of November 22, 2013. This year, they chose One Body Village, Inc. (OBV). I had the pleasure to attend GMU VSA's semi formal for the second consecutive year and am proud to say that this year's semi formal was a great success with a fully booked venue at over 450 attendees. Semi formal is one of GMU VSA's biggest fundraisers for their Philanthropy Project since attendees all across the Mid-Atlantic Union of Vietnamese Student Associations (MAUVSA) come and join forces to help promote their organization of choice.
Doctor Dan Thuy and Jesse Robbins have joined to help OBV since Oct 2013. They would like to relocate to Vietnam since Dr. Thuy always wanted to volunteer her medical knowledge there. They were impressed when attended OBV awareness and fundraising event a few years ago; and now Dr. Thuy is a doctor and medical consultant for OBV, Mr. Robbins teaches the young girls Krav Maga for self-defense.
Below is one of the journal from their blog.
Dear fellow parishioners,
Fr. Martino and I recently returned from a trip to Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand, so I thought I might report to you on this experience.
First, I have to say how blessed I am to have had this experience. Over the last 25 years, I have been to many countries in Central America and have witnessed extreme poverty and deplorable living conditions. But nothing prepared me for what I encountered with child sex slavery.