I recently attended the birthday of my friend Bob and we got to talking about blogs and what we were doing in Vietnam. Bob and his lovely wife Phuong live in the city of Tuy Hoa where they have opened a small western restaraunt with burgers, wings, pizza and the like. We talked a bit about the charitable work he did and I thought that people might be interested in what he does, so I invited him to write a guest blog and here is is in its entirety, unedited.
One of the greatest on-going problems in Vietnamis the
legacy of Agent Orange left from what is called the ‘American War’. For the
past 40 years the lasting effects of the dioxin poisoning have caused and,
continue to cause, monumental suffering among mostly the rural population.
Although the effects of spraying thousands of tons of the
deadly defoliant were devastating at the time today, over 40 years later, the
amount still present in the soil continues to cause this suffering. In many
areas, mostly rural, the groundwater will continue to be contaminated for the
foreseeable future. These rural families drink and bathe in this water and
there is no way to decontaminate it. The levels of contamination accumulate in
the body and are passed on from generation to generation. The numbers of birth
defects is increasing rather than decreasing; in a society where working
translates directly to eating/the family surviving, the results of two or three
severely disabled children has a crippling effect which most reading this can’t
even begin to imagine.
There are also many reasons why the government or the people
here can/will do little to help these people. They are social, cultural and
economic; you almost have to live here for a while to understand all of the
‘whys’. Myself and Bob Schuessler, the founder of OrangeHelpers, both live
in-country. We don’t visit for a month or so and then go home, feeling that
we’ve made a wonderful difference in some lives…patting each other on the backs
for a job well done after touring in air-conditioned cars and staying in
five-star hotels. Unlike most volunteer organizations and NGO’s we have no
office and no staff. We don’t take any of the donations for fees or costs and,
in many cases, will contribute some of our own money to assist in a project.
WHAT ORANGEHELPERS DOES
The primary objective, after identifying needy
families, is to move them out of squalor. Most of this consists of building a
better house for them. Many of the families, due to lack of or limited income are
found living in mud over reed mat (walled) – dirt floored shacks. The majority
of these house two to three generations of the family; three to five small
crowded rooms. We use the donated money to build a better home which is easier
to maintain, more weather-proof and sanitary. Not always a lot larger but brick
and mortar, cement and tile floors with tile roofing.
Family Store: in some cases, when there is no wage
earner and several disabled children must have constant care, a small store can
be started for $3 to 400 USD. It is also possible to set a family up as rice
merchants or vegetable sellers. Bob did this with a very poor family three
years ago. On a return visit this year they were found not only doing well but
running a thriving business in the small village.
Livestock : chickens, pigs and cattle (calves) can be
provided for growing, breeding and sale in the future. Breeding brings fresh
stock to grow-on, the eggs can be both consumed by the family and the excess
sold. Provisions are made to assist with decent food for raising the pigs and
We also work with organizations which provide free medical
surgical and reconstructive surgery for some individuals. In most of these
cases OrangeHelpers pays for the expense of visa/passport procurement, the
travel expense to get them and transportation abroad for the work. We also
provide follow-up visits as needed for any ongoing care or additional surgery.
In many cases we have reached into our pockets to provide train or bus tickets
as well as decent clothing, shoes and other items for a trip like that…none of
these expenses are repaid nor do we ask for it.
Since 2004 we have :
Helped 4 families open small stores, set up 2 more as rice
Provided ‘seed’ livestock to 6 families.
Managed to secure sources for free reconstructive surgery
then get it carried out.
Provided countless simple wheelchairs and other minor
equipment for disabled people and children.
Our many thanks to Owen for supporting this guest blog entry.
You can find the Agent Orange Helpers website at http://orangehelpers.org/ngo/
If you wish to contact him directly, I will be happy to provide you with his email on request.