Thursday, July 21, 2011

Day 12: This Is Not Goodbye

We spent the last day in Hanoi doing last minute shopping or taking the chance to do some sightseeing of the city. We departed Vietnam at about 11 PM at night, and landed in South Korea at about 5:30 AM. Our next 10 hours there consisted of eating, sleeping, reading, facebooking, exploring, painting, and showering. Couldn't really get pictures of eating, reading, facebooking, exploring, painting, or showering, but here are some pictures of the 5G crew sleeping.

Our crew landed in Los Angeles at 10:30 AM today and share good byes with each other, marking the official ending to MEMO 5G. I am sitting in the comfort of my own home, finishing up this last post of our journey.

During 5G, we were able to donating half a million dollars worth of medical supply to University Medical Center hospital in Saigon. Two heart patients were sponsored a life saving heart surgeries so they can go on living a healthy life. Two orphanages, one in Thiên Bình, Đồng Nai, and the other in Đồng Hới, Quảng Bình, were visited and provided with toys and support. In Bình Hòa Nam Elementary in Long An, 50 scholarships were given out to 50 students, allowing them to stay in school for another year to continue their education. Furthermore, one of the scholarship students, whom family had not have a house for 3 generations, received a house built by money sponsored by MEMO. These money were from leftover medicines from 4G. Even though obstacles did arise, preventing our team from reaching out even farther and helping more people in Hue, we showed that we could still pull through and keep going. Thank you everyone on 5G for a job well done. Because of our efforts together, we were able to put smiles on many people's faces. No obstacles will slow us down. This battle may be vicious, but we will come back next year and help even more people.

Thank you to the Nguyen family for being by our team and watching over us every step of the way.
Thank you officers for always being around, staying on top of your games, making sacrifices, and caring for all members with love. You are true leaders.
Thank you Sean and Morgan for being there to record and tell our stories.
Thank you everyone for always being on time, giving 110% at everything, playing your hearts out with the orphans, and giving support to one another. I felt like we have become a very tight family, and we will be for a very long time.

Well, here is the last post. My job is done for now. Thank you to those who have been reading and following our journey. 5G is over, but its memories will continue to stay in my heart and mind. Look out for us again next year for 6G.

Over and Out.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Day 11: Departing Hue and Arriving in Hanoi

There's a lot of irony in this picture. This donation box was found by Steven at Phu Bai International Airport in Hue.

Hanoi has 4 seasons, so summer is pretty hot and humid at the moment. Our last night in Vietnam consisted of gift shopping, shirt shopping, massage, sightseeing, and animal kingdom.

Over and out.

Day 10: Scrubs and Banquet.

Today was another scheduled clinic day. Since they were closed down, we have nothing to do besides touring Da Nang and Hoi An. What stuck out for me throughout the day was an old woman gathering cans at the beach of Hoi An. She wanders throughout the beach, trying to gather up all the cans that she could to make a living. In her hands was a string with about 5 or 6 cans. She asked us for a couple cans that we have with us, so we gave them to her. In America, these cans are recycled to give us quick cash. But here, some people relied on that for a living...

On the front of our scrubs read "MEMO Medical, Educational Missions and Outreach." We wore them for the first time and the last time during our banquet dinner. They reminded me of the people that we were unable to help this year. We will come back for sure next year.

Over and Out.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Day 9: 100,000 VND

Since clinic was no longer allowed for us, we only have one more thing to do: visit our last orphanage. This orphanage was located in Dong Hoi, Quang Binh, which was located about 3 hours away from Hue. It was a tiring day for all of us I'm sure after about 7 hours of traveling on the bus, but I am sure it was at the same time rewarding.

Before arriving at the orphanage, we visited a really beautiful cave called Phong Nha. We took a boat ride to go into the cave, and then was allowed to explore it on foot once we were inside. We found out that the two people managing the boat for our group gets paid 100,000 VND each time they give a ride like this, but this only happened about once every 2-3 days. I hope that the extra tips that our group give them will be able to provide some help to their lives. People everywhere in this country are still struggling to live, yet we are here right now, unable to do something about it...

We arrived at the orphanage at around 4 PM and stayed there for the next hour and a half. This orphanage was definitely more well off than the first one we visited, but they kids brought the same smiles to our faces just like the first one that we visited. This facility has 121 children, and all of them lined up to greet us upon our arrival. They were really eager and excited to receive the toys and stuffed animals that we prepared for them. A legit soccer field was located behind the orphanage, so we played another game against the orphans. The kids here played soccer on a regular basis and was ranked 3rd in the nation in their league apparently. We tried and played out hearts out, but still lost 0-6. In the meantime, the rest of the groups spent time playing volleyball or talking to the kids who weren't playing soccer. Cecilia told us about Mo, a girl whom she talked to. Mo told her about how her parents died, and how she was brought to the orphanage. When asked if she was sad, she replied "no." These kids have been through so much in their lives. So many things were taken away from them and their youth, yet they still smiles and look forward for tomorrow..

After today, our mission is complete. I hope that the lives that we met and the people that we helped would keep on living and working hard toward a better future. They have definitely left a lasting impact on all of us.

Over and out.

PS. sorry I didn't get the chance to take more pictures for today.

Day 8: Kids at the Beach

“Kids at the beach.” This title would conjure up images of children running, laughing, and playing at the beach. An image of innocence and happiness.
This however, was not the case when we went to the beach. The moment we arrived, we were crowded by a mass of children, all asking us to buy some snacks and drinks. As they followed me, I did not see the innocence one would expect in their eyes. Instead, I saw the premature signs of a child learning the rules of the cut-throat world they were thrust into: a cold glare of competition and loneliness. The children were herded around the beach by a five foot woman with a large bamboo stick, yelling insults and threatening orders to go here, to move there, to sell this, to sell that.
What I saw was not innocence, what I saw was… the reality of child labor.
That is what MEMO is about, we send scholarships every year to schools and orphanages to promote education. The thing that kept me from the streets, the thing that kept me from being condemned to a life of petty competition was the option of moving to America for a full education.
What I saw in those kids was me, one step away from a life of poverty, one opportunity away from begging at the beach. I bought a few bags of snacks because I felt that was the best way to help. Maybe I saw a little of myself in them.
Spoken by Tuan, interpreted into text by Steven Pham
Over and out.

Day 7: Departure to Hue and Change of Plan

Sometimes, things do not go as planned.
As short as this blog post will be, I have a heavy feeling in my chest. MEMO 5G will not have clinics this year.

Written by Steven Pham

Over and out.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Day 6: "Can You See Us From Up There?"

Today we ended our stay at the hospital with a small award ceremony. Each of us got a certificate from the hospital, and we presented the hospital representatives who had helped us for the past few days MEMO T-shirt to express our gratitude. We finished at around 9:30 AM and began to head back to get ready to visit Thiên Bình Orphanage in Đồng Nai.

We got there at around 2 PM. We carried with us a box of toys, 3 soccer balls, 1 basketball, and 6 cases of chocolates. This is the orphanage that we visited first during the trip of 4G. It was very big, so people spread out to different areas to see the kid. Everyone I’m sure encountered different kids and would experience different impacts that the kids had on them. Please allow me to write my own experience, because they have for sure had a small part in my heart from now on. I stayed in the muddy field area to played soccer with the kids. At first, it was just me and a couple of other guys with 3 bigger kids. One of these big kids is called Khang, and he is 17. He was wearing a school uniform, so I asked him what grade he is in, and he said he isn’t going to school. I read his uniform closer and it was an elementary school uniform. He must have stopped after elementary school….Soon, Jonathan, Nam, Kevin, Jerome, Tran, Albert, Long Co, Fritz, and Jeremy joined the field to begin playing. On the orphans’ side, smaller kids began to come out and joined.

Earlier during the day, the sky was pouring. By the time we got to the orphanage, the pouring had given way to smaller drizzle. The muddy field, as a result, got even wetter and muddier. The orphans went straight down and dirty and jumped right in with their bare feet. The rest of us, with the exception of a few, all took off our shoes and joined the muddy game. The orphans wanted me on their team at the start (I felt so loved), so I started the match on their side. Everyone played their heart out on the muddy field. No one was scared of the mud….Well, maybe a little at first. But after seeing all the kids having so much fun, mud became not much of an issue. It was a game that brought joy to both volunteers and orphans. I would never forget Andrew’s amazing charges, Albert’s skills, Fritz’s defensive effort, and Tran’s energy. Tran went for the ball in one of the plays and slipped. Her whole back was covered in mud, yet she stood up and continued to play. The orphans themselves had great teamwork and determination. Every time our team got the ball, they, little or big, all rushed toward us and win back the ball. Minh, a bigger kid on their side, possessed a very powerful leg. Hanh, age 13, was really small, but he worked really hard along with his peers to win the ball back for the team. I scored one goal in this game, but it was during the time that I was on the orphan’s team so the point counted for them. I later moved back to our own team when the orphans get more players. I am sure by now you would be wondering if we won or not. The final score was 6-2 in favor of the orphans. We did better than last year even if we lost, but the main part was that everyone had an enjoyable time.

The game ended when it was time for us to leave the orphanage. I stayed back until the last minute to talk to the kids. They asked me a whole bunch of questions about flying and America. The questions might have been simple, but they will never fade in my mind.

“Where are you going to?”
“Do you take the plane to go there?”
“How far is the flight there?”
“Do they feed you on the plane?”
“Is there a bathroom on the plane? Are the “wastes” being dumped into the water?”
“Do you see us from up there? Do we look like ants from up there?”

They walked Tran and me to our bus. I shook their hands until the moment I got on the bus. We continued to wave to each other until the bus left the orphanage. I couldn’t help but tear up a little bit after grabbing my seat. That two hour visit was short but heartwarming. These kids had suffered so much lost in their lives, but they can still laugh, smile, enjoy life and spread that joy to people like me. They make me appreciate my parents even more since they are still a part of life.

The kids asked if I was coming back next year, and I promised them I will. Good bye for now Khang, Minh, Hanh, and everyone else. See you all next year on the same muddy field.

Over and out.