ChildFund New Zealand’s Cassandra Chapman recently visited the newly established New Zealand dedicated project area in Cao Bang, northern Vietnam. Here she shares her feelings and thoughts about the remarkable children and parents she met.
By Cassandra Chapman, Marketing & Fundraising Coordinator
“I hope my son will grow up to be a better man than I am,” the young father tells me, “and be able to provide enough food for his family.”
I feel tears well up.
Here I am, in the humble home of 26-year-old Quyet and his young wife Nham. For the last hour we have been talking about their life and the burden of responsibility they carry to care for three dependent adults as well as their baby son, Kien. The couple described to me their daily routine which involves getting up in the pre-dawn to collect firewood to sell at market before working until sunset in their corn field – back-breaking manual labour. There are three or four months each year when, despite their best efforts, there simply isn’t any food. At that point Quyet must resort to begging alms from the neighbours to feed his young son.
This young man who works so hard to support his family quietly says, “I feel sad and ashamed of myself that I cannot provide for my family.”
And I feel tears well up.
* * *
I just got back from Vietnam. I was visiting the northern province of Cao Bang. This is where ChildFund New Zealand’s support is focused and where Kiwis’ sponsored children live.
The reason I was in Vietnam was simple – meet with children, talk to their families, see and hear and feel their lives, then come home and share their stories.
This moment with Quyet is the one that stood out for me.
I heard a lot of sad things during my days in Vietnam. I saw a lot of broken houses and hungry children. In fact, I’ve had quite a lot of experience with poverty – I’ve lived in Ecuador, volunteered with orphans in El Salvador, and worked in Haiti after the earthquake. When you see that kind of suffering first-hand you get pretty good at staying strong and holding it together so you can do your job.
When that young man told me his biggest dream for his baby son was that he would do a better job of feeding his family than he could, in spite of my experience, the wall came down. Here I was, one human being standing in front of another. I felt profound compassion for Quyet, a decent man who loves his family and is trying to do the best he can in difficult circumstances. The dignified struggle of his life moved me to tears.
Yet Quyet’s wasn’t the only sad story I heard in Cao Bang. Hardship is everywhere.
People live in ramshackle wooden structures with gaping cracks in the walls, which cannot keep the icy cold out during winter. Open fireplaces fill the one-room homes with smoke. Children suffer from frequent respiratory problems. Their parents work tirelessly to grow what rice and corn they can to feed them. But there is never enough. For many months of the year families are hungry. Children go to bed without dinner and try to fall asleep as quickly as possible to forget their hunger pains.
Sponsorship will change all this.
Through Kiwi sponsorship support, communities in Cao Bang will be transformed. Parents will learn how to make their crops more productive. Children will no longer have to go hungry. They will even get the chance to go to school.
With the support of generous Kiwis like you, Quyet’s dream may one day come true – maybe when his son is a grown man he will have plenty of food and a good life for his own family.
If you would like to sponsor a child from Vietnam please click here or call 0800 223 111.