This past Sunday our volunteer group, the RMIT Community Action Network, had our first volunteer activity since we opened up membership to all students and staff. We took about 25 of our members to the Phu My Orphanage in Binh Thanh District. The orphanage has about 300 children living there, most of whom have mental or physical disabilities – ranging from mild to extremely severe. Some of the more severely disabled children could not sit up, talk, eat, control their limbs or hands, etc. It was very, very sad and very difficult to be there.
At first, we were all kind of shocked and didn’t really know what to do – but after a few minutes, we just dove in and started interacting with the children. Some of them could play and we played with them, read to them, drew with them, etc. Some couldn’t do anything more than let you hug them or rub their back as they lay in their crib, etc. We also helped feed a lot of them who couldn’t feed themselves.
I can’t really express how overwhelmingly sad it was to be there. I was depressed the rest of the day on Sunday and still feel depressed every time I think about it. But the facility was actually a very nice, clean facility and I think the children are being provided for as best as they can be under the circumstances. But it was just heartbreaking to see.
I took my camera with me, but was so overwhelmed I never even took it out of my pocket. Fortunately some of our other CAN members did take some photos. I haven’t seen them all yet, but here are a few:
One thing I learned from that trip is that we have a really great group of caring students – and we were only able to take about 25 of the 80 or so who have signed up for CAN so far. They were great with the children at the orphanage and really very inspiring. I am more excited about our group now than ever before, as I see that we are going to be able to do a lot of good in the community.
I went to lunch with some of the students after we left the orphanage. One thing I told them was that as sad a place as that orphanage was, and as sad as it made us feel to see those children in that condition, it was really only a couple of hours of our lives and it was all those children will ever know. Their whole lives are really going to be like that – they can’t just leave and get away from it like we can. So the fact that we were able to go and spend time with them – to play with them or even just show them some affection – was worth more to those kids than whatever sadness we felt.
I think that we will try to make a regular monthly visit to an orphanage like that. Either to Phu My Orphanage or some other orphanage around Ho Chi Minh City. As tough as it was, it was really a great experience overall and I’m so glad we went.