The Vietnam Friendship Village, just west of Hanoi is a residential centre for children and veterans affected by Agent Orange. Approximately 120 happy, energetic children live here, with varying degrees of mental and physical challenges. Children are given basic schooling, provided appropriate health care access as well as training in sewing, crafts and cooking to help them with their confidence and independence. It’s a warm and nurturing environment, acting as a safe haven for children often left on the margins of society because of their disabilities.
In Da Nang, where there are 5000 Agent Orange victims, including 1400 children, the NGO, VAVA runs two day centres for affected children. “A lot of children with Agent Orange related illnesses can’t go to normal school so they’re at home all the time,” explains President of VAVA Da Nang, Nguyen Thi Hien. “No friends, nothing to do. It’s terrible for them.” Servicing 120 children aged from 10 to 25, “we give them vocational training, rehabilitation, the chance to make friends. When they’re in the same positive environment as other children, they get the chance to develop and realise they’re not all alone. It makes children more confident and happy.”
VAVA Da Nang also financially assists 500 families throughout the region, donating 200,000 VND ($12) a month per affected child. “Some families have land so we provide the funds to build a house for them; we also offer loans to families for setting up small food shops. In rural areas we fund families [to rear animals or grow crops] by helping them to buy a pig or cow, or plant trees”, adds Hien.
To make a donation or volunteer your time to help Vietnamese families affected by Agent Orange, visit VAVA (Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange) http://vava.org.vn/?lang=en or SJ Vietnam http://www.sjvietnam.org/.