Posts Tagged 'Friendship Village Hanoi'

Visiting the Friendship Village, Hanoi, Vietnam

Friendship Village,  HanoiVietnam

 The Friendship Village  is set on a five  acre site approximately 20 kilometres from Hanoi city centre where it houses over a hundred children suffering from Agent Orange dioxin and 40 war veterans.

The Village was founded in 1992 and is the brainchild of the late George Mizo, a former US soldier who served in Vietnam, a hawk turned dove and prominent member of Veterans for Peace, an organisation made up of former male and female soldiers.   Mizo’s main aim was to help repair the damage done to the Vietnamese people and to Vietnam-US  relations following the war.  George died in 2002 but his German wife took up the cause and continues to fundraise on behalf of the Village.

I am here to meet with the director, Dang Vu Dung and carry out a tour of the teaching and training facilities.

Director  Dang Vu Dung  explains,  “We have 102 children residing here.  The age range is between 6 and 20 years.  The vetting system for entry is that they must be the offspring of former Vietnamese soldiers and they must be affected by Agent Orange in some form.  Having said that, the children we enrol here, while suffering a disablement of one form or another as a result of dioxin, are those that, with the right training and rehabilitation, can re-enter society with a skillset to help them survive.

Meeting the Director of the Friendship Village, Hanoi

 The younger children attend school here like any normal child except that here we employ special needs teachers.  The older children receive training in IT/computer skills, weaving and sewing to make clothes, souvenir making (note:  the souvenirs are used as a fundraising tool to generate extra income) and tend the organic vegetable and fruit garden.

 We appoint one mother (supervisor) for every 20 victims and they supervise, guide and encourage an ‘esprit de corps’ among the children with a goal of making them as self sufficient as possible.  We also encourage sports, for example, badminton and football.  Another important aspect is outreaching into the local community and we encourage direct contact and communication to ensure the children’s time here is as normal and productive for them as possible.  All our dioxin children spend a maximum of three years here before returning to their families and villages.

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In the classroom
Ain’t she sweet!

Our income support is split 50/50 – 50% comes from Government funding and the other 50% from fundraising mainly carried out by the Union of Veterans which includes mainly former French, German, Japanese, US and English soldiers. The veteran’s fundraising efforts, their enthusiasm and vision for what we are trying to achieve here is the essence of what the Friendship Village is all about  – turning the negative legacy of war into a positive one where children are given a second chance and the ability to live some from of normal life.  This was George Mizo’s vision.  

Computer training
“Peace Man”
Making souvenir flowers

There are also 40 veterans resident at the Village at any given time.

Two of the veterans resident at the Village

Vietnam Travelogue: Hanoi – First Impressions

Hanoi – First impressions

Travelling from Hanoi airport into the city what becomes immediately apparent is that the city is surrounded by agricultural lands,  mainly geared toward rice production.  I pass vast swathes of rice fields with farmers in conical hats, along with buffalo, tending the fields.

The French influence is everywhere – the houses are narrow but tall with verandahs,  green wooden window shutters and balustrades.

I am staying at the Hanoi Legend hotel in the heart of the Old Quarter – a quaint warren of tiny streets full of hotels, restaurants, tourist offices and hordes of street vendors selling everything from food to trinkets to old Viet Cong army caps with their Vietnamese red star emblem.

The tourist offices are everywhere selling trips up into the northern mountains, out to the karst rocks of beautiful Halong Bay where, for a $100 or so you can book a two day trip touring the islands, swimming, eating and spending the night on board in splendidly furnished wood panelled bedrooms. You can also book an overnight train south along the coast to the old imperial capital of the Nguyen dynasty at Hue.

In the Old Quarter, there are motorbike taxis, car taxis and cyclos everywhere all looking for your business  – “You wan moto bike, you wan taxi”

A crowd drinking Bia Hoi on a street corner

There are food stalls where you can snatch a quick Beef Pho for 50 cents,  order your own sit down BBQ for a little more or simply sit on a street corner bar on foot high tiny plastic stools sipping Bia Hoi, the local draught brew which sells at a mere 15 cents a glass.

Vegetable seller along a Hanoi street

Why do they let cars up these tiny streets?

And if you want you can go upmarket to a Grafton Street-style area that sells all the top international brands.  There you’ll also find  five star hotels, excellent restaurants in an area resplendent with attractively dressed men and women driving Porsches and four wheel drives accentuating the obvious gap between rich and poor in this new open market-led economy.

Those motorbikes again!

Wow, I travelled three thousand kilometres and this is what I'm confronted with - where's that Louis Walsh fella?!

What differentiates Hanoi from HCM city, among others,  is its lake system, in particular nearby Hoan  Kiem lake, which, as a centre-piece, tends to have an overall calming affect on this teeming city.

This second instalment of my trip will concentrate on environmental issues, meeting up with environmental and forestry expert Dr Phung Tuu Boi at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, then a 20 kilometre trip out of the city to visit the Friendship Village, ending with a meeting at the Catholic Relief  Services Agency office in the suburbs of the city.


February 2017
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