News from the Rockland Rotarians, veterans (Nov. 2 and 3)
Great news from Ed Frank, president of Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 333, on what the Spring Valley Rotary Club’s humanitarian tour group has been up to in Vietnam so far. The Rotarians, veterans and family members are heading south from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City, where my father and I will join them next week.
So far, they’ve visited orphanages and schools in Hanoi and Haiphong. Here’s a photo of Ed at one of the orphanages during last year’s trip. (No photos from this year’s group yet – stay tuned.)
Click below to read Ed’s dispatches from Nov. 2 and 3. I’ll post the next one tomorrow.
Friday, Nov. 2: The Peace Village – 180 children in an institution run by Dr. Phoung, a woman who has a handshake that I will not forget for a long time. We left almost 100 lbs. of soft medical supplies, 200 toothbrushes and 200 tubes of toothpaste, a few thousand vitamin C tablets, general hygiene products and a dozen children VHS tapes. We also saw the clean water water purification unit we had purchased and sent to the village three weeks ago.
We headed to the Hoa Sua Culinary Training Restaurant, one of four in the Hanoi area, founded in 1995 by three teachers who saw the need to provide training for orphanage children who need to support themselves when they left at age 18 as required by the government. This one-year program provides comprehensive training in the food and culinary trades. The program graduates approximately 350 students per year and has successfully provided employment for 4,000 young adults since its inception. Having visited the restaurant on last yearâ€™s trip, Rotarians are always happy to assist those who are trying to better their lot in life. We were addressed by the Training Manager, who himself was a student in the program. We provided the students in the program with calculators, writing materials, and many personal hygiene products for their daily usage.
Saturday, Nov. 3: Departed Hanoi for Ha Long Bay. The countryside was a succession of rice paddies and agriculture with not a spare piece of land left unused. The countryside, though primarily agricultural, is booming with residential and industrial work zones. It is truly amazing to see the dramatic changes that have occurred in just 12 months since our last visit. The locals smiled and greeted us along the way which made the 3 1/2 hour bus ride a bit more enjoyable. Traffic control and traffic rules are just nonexistent. It’s everyone for themselves with horns blazing as thousands of motor bikes inch their way through the roadways.
In Ha Long Bay, we boarded a junk for an afternoon cruising among the 1969 limestone islands that litter the S. China Sea in this seaport city. Although the weather was cloudy, the scenery was breathtaking as you viewed the UNESCO World Heritage site. We toured the grottos and were amazed at the sheer beauty of the landscape.
We returned to port and boarded our bus to Haiphong, some 2 1/2 hours south, where we visited the Hoa Phoung Orphanage. We joined our friend and West Coast Rotarian Son Michael Pham, who introduced us to this orphanage last year. The facility has seven cottages that house 10 children aged 18 months to 18 years. Each cottage is supervised by a house mother who provides the daily care and attention that the children need.
We provided each child with a backpack for school, each filled with a T-shirt, toothbrush, toothpaste, crayons, coloring books, writing material, pencils, soaps and hygiene products. We also left soccer balls, an instant hit with the kids, 9,954 chewable multivitamins, and vegetable seeds,to help with the gardens that help feed the orphans during the year. Rotary flags were given to the director from Spring Valley Rotary, Pearl River Rotary, Warwick Rotary Seattle, WA Rotary and Media, PA Rotary Clubs.
(Check back tomorrow to read more of Ed’s dispatch.)