HOW is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization based in the USA, whose staff consists of all volunteers. Its mission is to provide hope and care to neglected, abandoned, and orphaned children in deprived areas of the world with a specific focus on VietNam.
This blog is written by one of Helping Orphans Worldwide, HOW VIP (Volunteer Immersion Program) volunteers, Fiona Corr. Fiona has worked very hard for a year to raise funds and awareness for HOW as well as you will read was the reason HOW was given a grant from the company she works for to buy 5 computers, "Tell Me More" English program's, a printer, and supplies for the year. It is HOW's intention to supply scholarships for 2013 for the children to continue not only their HOW English program but to keep them all in school with uniforms and books for the year. This program is called the Lotus Shelter Program. There are 26 girls living here, HOW has been involved with the Lotus Shelter since 2008 and have seen amazing changes happen! Our volunteers visit them each year as well as our HOW/Free Hugs Vietnam volunteers tutoring weekly for English lessons through the year. We do yoga with the girls, take them on swimming trips and many other self-esteem building fun activities. Fiona's blog will warm your heart!
It was Sunday, exactly a week since I arrived in Vietnam, and this was the day I had been looking forward to for almost 12 months! As I hopped onto Nancy’s bike I looked around at Kerri, Aisling and Milly who were putting on their bike gear and chatting happily to our new friends from Free Hugs Vietnam, a group of students who volunteered to be our drivers and translators, here because they are motivated by their aspirations of a better future for Vietnam. The engines started and we set off on the hour long journey to the Lotus shelter in Hoc Mon.
Now a bike ride in the Saigon traffic is a heart- stopping, eye-popping and bum-numbing roller coaster of mayhem! We were almost half way there when huge black clouds rolled in overhead and the wind began to whip up a storm. Then the rain started…furiously! We stopped quickly to throw on our rain gear and continued on down the highway like little ships being battered in stormy seas. I sighed with relief when we left that highway! Our journey continued down alleyways and narrow lanes where curious eyes followed us and little kids peeped out at us from their tiny homes. Finally we turned down a peaceful lane and arrived at the Shelter, soaked to the bone but happy we got here safely!
The girls were waiting patiently for us and as we walked through the front door we were meet with a sea of the most beautiful smiles I have ever seen! Shy, curious and mischievous eyes welcomed us into their home…and their hearts. They were very eager to practice their English so I was greeted with” what’s your name?” and “How old are you?” Lots of giggles as we struggled to pronounce each other’s names! Then I felt little hands slip into mine and I was brought over to a blackboard where 2 of the girls proudly stood and pointed to a huge ‘Thank You Electric Aid Ireland’ written beautifully on it! I was so proud too, they did this for me?!
I jumped as I felt 2 arms hug my waist tightly and I looked down to see little Nhu looking up at me with a cheeky smile. That’s when I lost my heart to these beautiful and precious girls.
After Lesson's the girls skype with Hillary in the USA and Sara in Australia, who were lucky enough to join in the party via Skype :)
I was anxious to see how the ‘Tell Me More’ Education Program was going since it began last February. The amazing volunteer Tutors, who come to the Shelter every weekend, brought me to the study area and explained how it works. The enthusiasm was inspiring and heart-warming. I listened in on the laptop headphones as some of the older girls practiced their pronunciation. They showed me their careful and beautiful handwriting. I was surprised and delighted at their level of progress in such a short time and really happy that they were so eager to practice their English with me!
As I watched them it struck me that up to now I really had no idea how very important the Electric Aid grant was to the girls of the Lotus Shelter. Electric Aid is a registered charity within my workplace, the ESB in Ireland. It’s funded by voluntary contributions from staff who agree to have a set amount deducted from our wages each week. This money is then used to fund humanitarian aid abroad, long-term and sustainable development projects in the developing world, and we also focus on the issues of homelessness and suicide prevention in Ireland. The Lotus Shelter Education Program is exactly the type of project Electric Aid supports in developing countries such as Vietnam. This gift of education is like handing them the key to their future, without this ,how will these underprivileged girls ever reach their true potential?
HOW's wonderful VIP (Volunteer Immersion Program) volunter Aishling Doyle was given many donations from her friends and family from Wicklow Ireland. The girls appreciate and understand how hard fundraising is and are grateful!!!
I felt so proud and honoured to be part of this amazing HOW initiative. After the lessons, it was Party Time! While the wonderful ladies who run the Shelter laid out the food, Kerri was busy setting up Skype with Hillary and Sara so that they could join the celebrations. We played with the girls while Lee took photos. The food was amazing, a glorious buffet of Vietnamese dishes. We ate and chatted, taking turns to speak to Hillary and Sara who were propped up on either side of the room so they could see all the fun through Skype! The atmosphere was magical. If I ever felt I truly belonged in a moment then this was it. So much love and joy was present here, I loved it! We finished up the party with a little presentation to the girls. Kerri had a special delivery of letters written by school kids in Cavan for them. I had little angel charms made especially for the girls in South Africa thanks to my sister Roisin who lives there.
Thau showing Hillary and Sara on Skype and telling them in English "Bowl, spoon, eat"
Kerri getting some hugs & Milly Mazzei HOW's VIP Nurse, volunteer, extraordinaire!! What a great team of volunteers and children to round off an amazing celebration!Many millions of hugs later we set off on the trip home, exhausted but happy, and full of hope that these wonderful girls in the Lotus Shelter will never ever lose the spirit that we saw in them today.
Written with love by: Fiona Corr
For more information about HOW Lotus Shelter Program please visit http://helpinghow.com/about/vietnam/the-lotus-shelter/
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