We went the SOS Children’s Village orphanage in Hi Chi Minh City two days ago. We had planned to visit several but this orphanage alone houses 268 children ages 3 and up. The orphanage campus was actually very beautiful and set up in a more attachment-friendly manner than I had expected. There are mini houses that house 10-12 children of various ages. Each house is referred to as a “family” and each house is run by one “mother.” These “mothers” are truly modern day saints! They are employed by the orphanage and have to be single to devout their time to caring for their “family.” The woman we met who served as a mother had not left the orphanage in 25 years and explained although she truly finds purpose in her life there, her entire employment check goes to buying more food for the children in her “family” since the rations from the orphanage are not enough, especially with the older children and adolescents.
We were able to combine two families into one room (about 24 children) for our visit there. My uncle’s sister in-law translated for me as I talked to the children about different feelings and validated that all feelings are okay to have. I gave them a laminated “how are you feeling?” Chart for the house. I then read a book about self esteem and believing in yourself. The children had activity pages to draw or write what they liked about themselves and different positive self statements. At first the children stared at the papers and struggled coming up with anything. I created one and shared it as an example. Slowly I started to notice the children writing and drawing on their activity pages. They had opportunities to share and one boy talked about loving soccer. Another girl described herself as adventurous and said she would like to be a movie star. The concept of thinking about and talking about themselves positively was very new to them. We left the orphanage with the translated self esteem book, toys, and school supplies as well. The “mother” we had met told us she was so appreciative that we had come to read with them and spend time with them. She told us in her 25 years there, no one had ever come to her house from outside of the orphanage, no one had ever made the children feel like they were special, like they mattered.
Since we still have another translated story and more supplies, we are visiting the orphanage again when we are Ho Chi Minh City next week. We will combine more families into one room and do the same lesson plan with them too. I only wish we had enough supplies and time to meet with all of the families. A great reason to come back to Vietnam soon! Anyone looking for volunteer work for yourself or possibly your church this would be a great place to do it!