From 2008, I would go back with Chris every year to do charity work in Vietnam. However for this year, I was also going to squeeze in a trip to visit OBV.
Everyone was so sweet from the get go. That very first time I met Fr Martino Nguyen Ba Thong, he invited me to join him on a trip to Dai Nam for a day, to meet and get to know his children. We were scheduled to meet at his hotel at 7.30am. It was the first time I met with Mrs. H (mother of the cutest little girl EVER!) and L.N, who had come back from the States with Fr. Martino.
We left the hotel at 7.45, and as I walked to the car, there stood 2 girls. I looked at them and smiled, and the smiled back. I knew in my heart these were some of Fr. Martino's children, even though we had never met. They were indeed. Two sweet, polite sisters, G and D. Once we had settled into our seats, we were on our way to pick up Mother N. and the other girls.
I was overwhelmed with joy meeting the girls for the first time. They were polite and adorable. But at the same time, I felt sad for them. I felt it was unfair that these evils had happened to them. But, I pushed those sad thoughts aside to enjoy the rest of my day with them.
As much fun as we were having, it was incredibly hot, well over 35. I was sweating and wanted to jump into a pool, while they were covered from head to toe, including jackets and hats! I asked them incredulously 'aren't you hot?!' to which they answered with a smile 'this is normal weather, and it's actually a bit chilly!' I just smiled, amazed.
A week later, I went to OBV to teach the girls how to cut hair.
There were supposed to be 6 girls, but a few of them lived too far away, or were too busy with school, so only 3 of them turned up. They were Y, H and T. We started the training right after dinner, with Mother N brave enough to sit as the model. She sat for so long that she started getting back pain, but she never complained. What a champ.
The girls were so happy whilst in training, the feeling of joy that was in the air was simply indescribable. I didn't know how much they had actually learned from my lessons, but I had learned so much from them. How to move on and to make the future a better one. They were still young but so resilient.
One thing that really surprised me was mother N's bday. The girls wanted to celebrate, but wanted it to be a surprise. When I asked what was going on after catching them whispering among themselves, T said they had pooled all their money to buy a birthday cake. Each of them could only contribute the equivalent of a dollar, so I asked them to keep their money, and I would give them twenty dollars to buy the cake. But they refused, telling me "Kelly, we can't take your money. Mother N and Fr. Martino will not be happy if we take your money." What polite little children!
We finally came to a compromise that they would keep their money, and I would have my dad deliver the cake on Feb 24, Mother N's birthday.
The Saturday night before I had to return to Canada, I went back to teach them one last time and to say goodbye. They looked at me and said "Why dont you stay longer? We miss you! Please come back next year! We promise to remember all of your training!". Tears rolled down my faces, and theirs. I felt so touched by how much they appreciated me even though I didn't do much. They made me promise to come back next year, and it was a promise I vowed to keep. We had a big group hug, that I wanted to drag out longer...it was so hard to say goodbye...
Of all the years I had done charity work, this time was my sweetest and most beautiful memory, by far.
My dearest little sisters, you have offered me a precious gift. A feeling of amity. Although I am now back in Canada, my heart remains in Vietnam. I am eager to be back at OBV in January 2012 to meet all my beautiful little sisters who have given me unforgettable memories.
March 9, 2011
Translated by Tram, Jacqueline Huynh and Mr. Phung. The original version in Vietnamese entitled "Kỷ Niệm Khó Quên"