My husband and I really believe in educating our children on the importance of being grateful. They are extremely lucky to live in a city where everything is accessible, and they have life’s luxuries at their fingertips. They know that their parents run an NGO in Pakistan but as our charity is technically a medical lab it’s not tangible enough for the children to see or understand. So with this in mind we researched visiting an orphanage while we were in Hoi An. My eldest daughter had learnt about the Christina Noble foundation which supports children in Vietnam and Cambodia, so it was a concept we could explore further.
We took the children to ‘The Hoi An Orphanage For Handicapped and Down Syndrome Children’. Before the visit, the kids took great pleasure in picking gifts such as arts and crafts and ink stamps. When we entered the orphanage, which looked like any normal school on the side of a busy street, I knew the children didn’t know what to expect and to be honest I was not prepared for what I saw. The orphanage was bright and airy and the first room looked like a rehabilitation area with a couple of the children in wheel chairs who were severely disabled. In the next room there were a couple of children sitting at a desk in a class room like environment. There were twin girls who were blind and a 6 year old girl who was the latest addition to the centre who was extremely smiley.
My three children got straight in and handed out the gifts, showing the kids how to use the stamps, while my youngest daughter put the stamps in the hands of the two beautiful blind girls and told them what they should do and stamped their arms, it was heartwarming to see.
Everything seemed fine until we were asked to look around further. As the kids housed at this orphanage were aged between 5 and 18 years old, they kids were separated in to appropriate rooms for their age, some of the older boys were chatting in their bedroom, who didn’t engage and just said hello others were sitting at a large table reading books. Then we entered a room which was rather disturbing, only because I wasn’t prepared. The children were as young as 5 and as old as 15, all lying on beds or the floor in nappies trying to keep cool. The staff were very attentive and loving and one was feeding a young boy. Sadly all these children had brain damage, severely disabled or paralyzed. Some of the children could only move their eyes but they could hear us, yet their poor little bodies couldn’t move. It was jarring, a real reality check on the randomness of life but we and especially my children responded like how humans should – we hugged each child, talked to them and one I even held and hugged as he was slightly smaller, so I felt like I wouldn’t hurt him by picking him up. I just wanted to give him some genuine comfort even if it was for a few fleeting minutes.
The sad thing is, these children have all been abandoned, and this wonderful orphanage is looking after them and doing the best they can. These few children had no quality of life, but they were brought into this world and I’m sure the staff will look after them and protect them all they can until they leave. For us it was a distinctive life lesson on never taking anything for granted and being truly grateful for whatever we have and possess including important things like health, happiness, respect and compassion for your fellow human beings.