It was not my first visit to OBV, but tonight was a special and remarkable one for me.
After a storm passed through Saigon, dumping water across the whole town and turning the streets into what looked like branches of a river, and more than 3 hours on a bus (a trip that would've taken 1 hour and 45 minutes normally), I arrived at the gates of OBV's house. Everybody could see how wet and exhausted I was from the journey.
The children had already come back from school; some were preparing dinner, while others were taking care of their personal hygiene. All of them were chirping to welcome me. Some ran off to get me some warm water, and a towel. Others ran in the other direction to prepare a room for me, while others told me to "quickly take a warm bath before I got sick". How absolutely sweet these children could be, and suddenly, all my tiredness, my worries and stress were left behind at the front gate.
Entering the dormitory at the end of the day, watching shadows bounce off the walls, I couldn't see see anything at first, but I could hear her greeting -- a little girl that I had picked up last week. The clear voice came from a small figure with a joyful smile.
Her life had been nothing.
One thing after another
Adding to her grief
A father who rejected her at birth.
Muong La was her nick name given by sisters, half out of love, half out of teasing.
She had been living in the OBV house for four months now. She integrated herself quite quickly and became and new loving sister. She was happy and she cared for those around her, always ready to lend a hand to her sisters. She lived to the tune and spirit of OBV. Besides these positives, she of course doubted herself from time to time, but was told not to worry, and to simply work on the weaknesses she felt needed improving, with OBV as her companion.
OBV welcomes a child with open arms and with little attention to their religious background. The the founder and the staff are predominantly catholic, only a third of the children who walk through our doors are born Catholic.
For community integration, the children participate in activities organized by the local parish, however, are given the choice to study and convert to Catholicism. In fact, 6 children made the choice to receive their First Communion two years ago, and 2 of them continued on to receive their Confirmation today.
She was a little child, whose story made us cry non-stop for most of our trip to Malaysia. She had been there for two years, and in those two years, she had made new friends, but had also seen the same friends go home while she remained in a foreign country. Her hopes to return home had long evaporated since she had lost all of her personal documents and identification. She was excited to receive the good news that she was finally able to return to her motherland.
Welcome back! And now we begin the journey for you to rediscover your self value and worth.
April 13, 2017
Translated by Jacqueline Huynh and Mr. Phung. The Vietnamese original version in FB of NCHP
My Dear Children,
During Holy Thursday mass this evening, my eyes were stung. Every single word of the development of Love had soaked deeply in my heart.The Love God granted to us, and our love for each other.
How many years had we been through this? We celebrated the simple ceremony of washing feet every Holy Thursday, a reminder for us to live with humility, to serve, and to love.
It was a big surprise not only for the children, but also for the adults who attended his seminars.
It was the first class of 'life skills' to be presented by Professor Toan, with the very sensitive topic of sex. People assumed the children would be too embarrassed or hesitant to participate. But, his confidence and teaching methodology encouraged them to open up, to speak bravely and ask as many questions as possible.
Besides the children living with us in the OBV house, OBV supports other children, who for special reasons could not live with us, and instead now either remain with their parents, or at centres with specialized cared. However, OBV still remains in contact with them by phone, and endeavor to visit them a few times a year.
After many long rainy days in Saigon, came a day of brilliant sunshine. The elementary school kids were off this morning, a Saturday, and they, along with the OBV counselors decided to play outside.
Kids have an amazing ability to play for hours with minimal props, any plan or rules, or cookies and candy. All they needed were rubber bands (to make a long elastic for a skipping game), a few chopsticks and ping pong balls, a handkerchief, and a slipper. They played so passionately, that we as the adults looked on, embarrassed that we didn't know how to contribute to their games. After joking around about it, we decided to just take in their spirit, their childlike joy, naivety and innocence, to create a relaxed atmosphere and help them feel that they are loved unconditionally, and to forget their dark and sorrow filled pasts.
an old article...
Although Dad had been through long days of 2011 Mission Trip, he didn’t forget the promise to take us on a trip. So, we were on the way to Dai Nam.
Being with us this time were L. – a volunteer in the 2011 Mission Trip, and K. – another volunteer who has spent her annual vacation to teach OBV’s children how to cut their hair with a desire that “not only to help kids know how to cut their hair but also consider this as a job for their future”.
an old article...
Rolling on bed, finally I woke up at 9AM – lazy? Yeah, how lazy I was. As I was unemloyed...9AM was still early to me, and I had an appointment at 9AM
As I promised, I quickly started off with doing 3 loaves of flan for children, and I rode my motobike and headed to Cu Chi. Frankly speaking, this was the second time I visited land that my my dad bought long time ago. At the first time, as I went with my parents, I enjoyed cool astmosphere of the AC in the car, and of course my brother was driver, so I didn't care about the route and how to get there, just slept all along the road. And consequence was I had no idea about the route.
An old article...
According to the assignment of the One Body Village (OBV) Organization which has established by Father Martino Thông in the USA, 3 sisters of us who were OBV representatives in Vietnam had departed to Xuân Hưng – Đồng Nai province to deliver a sum of money from benefactors' supportive fund to a devoted class of Miss Huong.
In brief introduction, the class was built by Miss Huong and her husband on their home land. They created table and chairs for the class by connected pieces of wood and pieced some used tole and timber together to erect the wall. In last May, Father Thông led a group of young OBV members from US to the class helping complete the boundary fence for the class.
Many native Vietnameses have returned from Cambodia to this region for re-settlement. The class has been built up to help children of those Vietnamese families. Many parents have had difficulties either in cost of living or taken not enough cares of them. If not being well cared and educated the children would face high risk of being traded as prostitutes in Cambodia. Therefore, the main objective of OBV is to look after the children contributing into prevention of child sex slavery....
I was so excited to see the class wall because I missed a chance that was called by Father Thông on email for help build the wall.
The wall of "history"
an old article...
We all know that "parents place their children" but as they didn't want their children to move here with heavy hearts when knowing that they didn't want to leave their lovable place with lots of memories.
Those few days, when I took the children to District 9, I also wanted to help them to have psychological preparation in order to adapt to new place happily and comfortably. That afternoon, taking them around the village, when we just left our houses, we saw a target "Ecotourism area"; we asked around and got to know that it was 2 km away. Oh, so let's walk, just come and see.
an old article..
OBV celebrated the Memorial Day of Hung Vuong
It's time for the finals. The children must be nervous and tired for studying so hard for their final exams. It was a holiday. Since the morning, the management had been planning an unprepared short picnic for the children to relax a little bit. A few ideas were mentioned: fishing, snail hunting, playing in the park, etc. However, none of these were chosen by the majority due to a few constraints. Finally, everybody supported Mother N.'s idea of camping right in the OBV garden. All the tasks assigned must be accomplished quickly, on time within scouting discipline.
an old article...
By the Vietnamese New Year, one of the children in our large family named TV often seemed bored when she had to go to school and when she played with other girls. However, she talked a lot and was happy when she had free time and when she was in the family meals.
She said, "I want to go home and take care of my baby sister (or brother) but my parents argue all the time about me." I talked to her, comforted her and understood why she was so sad. My solution was creating content for her in this period. I did not expect her to study well, nor work on her duties even though they were just sweeping the house, washing dishes or preparing the dinner table. The only thing important was that she could smile and get along with others. Then it became true, I did not see her bored any longer. She was more joyful, laughed more, talked more, and wanted to study with T and Y. She studied as hard as other older girls, and she said, "I want to be a teacher when I grow up."
Feb 17, 2013
Translated by Phuong Pham. The original version in Vietnamese entitled "Cho Em Tiếng Cười"