Our visit to Kon Tum & the Orphanages was once again a humbling experience. The children & their carers are always so happy & positive despite their needs & circumstances. My husband Ross came with me for the first time, which was exciting for me to show him all the places I’d talked about & to meet the people I’d spoken of so often. Tim, Chloe, Amber & Abby Proctor from Baranduda & my cousin Judy from Sydney also came with us. A varied little group with different talents to share.
On arriving in Ho Chi Min City they were blown away by the traffic, particularly the motorbikes & the amazing quantity & diversity of goods that they transported on them. eg. Long loads of piping, wide loads of plastic containers to huge arrangements of flowers plus the usual load of mums & dads with up to 3 children on board. The heat was the other aspect to hit us & although it was very hot & humid we didn’t see much rain at all on our trip. Xuan, one of David’s friends kindly spent some time with us showing us some of the tourist sites of HCMC. She loved Amber & Abby & it was terrific to have a local person who spoke English. We also visited the “Rent House”, where we met up with two girls who are doing their nursing training. The girls grew up in the orphanages in Kon Tum & are now being sponsored by my sister & her husband from Townsville. The sponsors pay for all expenses: housing, food, clothing, education, uniforms, travel, etc. $2500 usually covers the cost. We took over 4 laptops that had been given to us & that David had worked on to make them suitable to use. We gave two to the students in HCMC & the other two to a nursing student in Kon Tum & a year 12 student in a neighbouring village who we hope to sponsor throughout her teaching course. We also paid for internet access. Education is a pathway out of poverty!
Our 1½ hr flight to Pleiku in the Central Highlands of Vietnam was uneventful but the 1hr trip in a mini bus from Pleiku to Kon Tum was rather hair raising. It was early evening, the road was under construction, as usual, with great dips & detours. Bikes, trucks & some cars on the road, with people walking home on the sides of the road. The rules are, the biggest vehicle has the right of way but you wait until the last minute to move aside to the dodgy part of the road. After many gasps by the passengers & laughter from the driver & his mate, we arrived safely at the Family Hotel to be greeted by Mrs Lee & Mr Phong.
The following ten days were filled with all sorts of experiences. Ross & Tim were working on the re-construction of a Bio-Digester at VS1. A Bio-Digester (or BD) is a structure that stores manure which eventually produces methane gas. In this case it is used to fuel the cooking of the pig food, which up until now is fuelled by wood that is expensive to buy as well as being detrimental to the environment.
Ross became quite adept with the calculator while purchasing livestock at the market & pig farms. There may be a language barrier but money speaks a universal language. In total Ross bought 76pigs, 30 chickens & 70 ducklings which were given to 4 of the 6 orphanages.
Judy discovered that the children at VS5 were sleeping on wooden slats covered by a thin grass mat. After consultation with the carers, she bought 40 mattresses & supervised their delivery on the back of 2 motorbikes. Quite a sight!
At VS3 Sr. Gabrielle had just had a bore dug so we were able to pay for a 2000 litre water tank & stand to be erected & for the water to be connected to the kitchen.
Chloe spent a very interesting morning at a medical clinic run by a visiting American nurse & a Vietnamese Doctor. John, the American, had worked in the Kon Tum Hospital with Sr. Gabrielle during the Vietnam War in the 60’s & 70’s. He returns each year to visit & help the people he grew to love.
Amber & Abby were loved by all the Vietnamese as they are very family orientated. Little pale skinned fair-haired children soon turned heads. They played with the younger children in the orphanages & were soon apart of Teresa & Dang’s family of 4 children of similar ages.
Ross & I took over 2 suitcases of soft toys & children’s books, which I buy from op shops over the months. A group of girls from the Tallangatta Secondary College knitted some brightly coloured scarves which we gave out, as it does get cool in the winter in the Central Highlands. We also had been given some little pants & tops, sewn by a local busy sewing lady, which were very gratefully received. Pads, pencils & crayons were also given out to some budding artists, which were gratefully received and appreciated.
We would like to thank all the generous people & groups who have made donations that have enabled us to give to those less fortunate. Many have been made personally but we have also received quite a few donations through our web site (www.friendsofkontum.com
) from around the world. All money donated is given to benefit the children of Kon Tum.
Thank you all once again.
Marg & Ross Rapsey Friends of Kon Tum
Each year Margaret Rapsey returns to visit the 6 orphanages in Kon Tum, in the central Vietnamese highlands. This year she is leaving next month on the 3rd of April to spend 2 weeks in and around the orphanages where she will hand out donated toys, clothes, investigate plans to build a number of bio-digesters in each of the orphanages, check to see how the bread project that Margaret helped setup is functioning and to spend money on other equipment and resources in the areas of education and health that Margaret identifies as a particular need for each of the orphanages.
Margaret will be accompanied by her husband, Ross for the first time, another family with 2 children and another family friend. The group will include a nurse, a farmer and a builder so these skills should come in handy at the orphanages. Within the total population of 700 kids at the orphanages, there are always large numbers of children requiring treatment for various ailments. Buildings and facilities can quickly come into disrepair due to lack of funding and each orphanage has various crops and pigs to provide food for the kids and produce to sell to raise money for the orphanages.
Thank you for all the people who have donated money, toys & clothes to take over to the orphanages. Donations can still be made to Margaret in person or by following this link: http://www.friendsofkontum.com/donate.html
We wish you all the best Margaret, Ross and Co.
- David Rapsey
I recently spoke to the Uniting Church Fellowship Group about my visits to the Vinh Son Orphanages situated in the central highlands of Vietnam. The 6 Orphanages care for over 700 children between the ages of new borns to 18yrs old. The Fellowship Group very kindly have given me a monetary donation which I will be able to put to good use in April, when I will be visiting. Ross, my husband will be coming for the first time, as well as Tim & Chloe Proctor (nee Suggate) & their 2 little girls aged 6 & 8yrs. Chloe attended Tallangatta Secondary College in early 2000’s. Chloe is an experienced nursing sister so will be very interested in the children’s health issues. Ross & Tim will be gathering information about the Bio-Digester project which uses pig manure to produce gas for cooking purposes. They use wood from the forests at the moment, which is very expensive as well as detrimental to the environment. I will be interested to see how my Bread Co-Operative that I initiated 2 years ago is progressing. The girls will have a great time playing & learning another culture.
Pictured is Jean Shubert looking at some goods I have to sell with all the profits going to the 'Friends of Kon Tum'. Look out for the Bullioh Trash & Treasure on Sat. 8th June 8am to 4pm. I’ll be there raising money for the children. See you there.
Mum has raised $776 from a garage sale in Tallangatta, Australia to help the 700 children from six orphanages in Vietnam. The money will go towards providing food, clothing, shelter and education to the children of Kon Tum, in the central highlands of Vietnam.
Thanks mum for helping the children in Vietnam where so much support is needed. Love the picture with my cute niece and nephew. I don’t know you got my niece, Ruby to let go of that teddy bear though! :-)See full article in 'The Border Mail'.
Teaching English out at Vinh Son 5. All ages class. Kids from age 4 up to age 13. The younger ones really enjoy singing songs, so it is a great way to get them to learn some new words. :-)
12th August 2012
Curtis, a friend of mine from Australia has made the journey over to Vietnam and to Kon Tum to see what the orphanages are all about and to lend a hand as well. Today, we visited Vinh Son 3, 4 & 6 in the one-day. The reason for visiting so many is because Vinh Son 4 & 6 are quite a distance out of town and they are all on the same road out of Kon Tum.
Vinh Son 4 has 170 children, which is quite a big orphanage in comparison to some of the other ones. ‘Friends of Kon Tum’ have recently given some money for the purchase of a new bread mixer here. I will include photos of the mixer in a later posting when I return to Vinh Son4 when the Sister’s bake some bread here, they weren’t baking on the day that I visited.
We also delivered some generously donated soft toys, clothes, beanies and books, mostly sourced around the Tallangatta area to Vinh Son 6 which is one of the smaller orphanages and the most remote of the 6 orphanages that we visit. Because they are further away, they often don’t get as much help as some of the other orphanages, so we thought it best to send some extra supplies here. Thank you everyone for your generous donations.
We also delivered much needed supplies of soap & washing powder to each orphanage, including 20kg of washing powder to VS4 and 10kg each for the other 2 orphanages.
Again, thank you everyone for helping the children of Kon Tum. Helping out with their educational & hygienic needs.
Two magic moments from yesterday
1. At Teresa’s house we had a small party (6 or so kids from Vinh Son 5 orphange and 6 kids from the local village). Ting Kuan gave a nice English lesson on the weather after it dumped rain for an hour or so in the afternoon (BTW, its just magnificent after it finishes raining. So cool, so fresh and there was a chorus of frogs, crickets and other assorted animals singing out in the fields! Most that can be eaten of course!!! :D). Anyway, back the story, we sang some songs. Some English karaoke and a bit of dancing and then the kids looked thoroughly exhausted and tired. One of the kids asked to play a game on my mac laptop. It’s a new laptop, so I didn’t have many games, but I got a couple of old school (mid-90’s games – Micromachines) games, which could be played 2 player on the one computer. Anyway, the kids perked up and was playing this little car racing game for a couple of hours. Normally you wouldn’t blink an eyelid at kids playing games at home, but these kids rarely have access to computers and I know when I grew up I loved computer games so much too. Was awesome to watch 6 or so kids huddled around the one laptop cheering each other on. They did the same on my android phone. At one stage there was about 6 kids playing Fruit Ninja (and every other game on the phone), all swiping there fingers on the phone to slice the fruit. Anyway, I just loved that they were having so much fun and something that I love too.
2. A traveller from Taiwan’s admission that after two days that over his last couple of months travelling south east asia (which I also share a common passion with him), that his experience with the kids in Kon Tum and the love of the people and Teresa’s family, thoroughly blew his mind and has potentially changed his outlook in life. I think that was an awesome thing. And you never know, perhaps he will be back to help out the children sometime in the future.
P.S. At times I feel slightly self indulgent to be having so much fun over here with the kids….. But I honestly feel that if they can have a bit of fun and you can further there education through teaching some English skills (which can be an escape from poverty), you can’t be doing such a bad thing.
Another day in paradise!
Mum did a presentation to a class of Year 9 students at Tallangatta Secondary College today about the orphanages over in Vietnam. At the end of her presentation she did a Skype session to me at one of the orphanages (VS5) and the kids were able to chat to each other for a short time and sing a song to each other. Was a great cultural exchange and awareness for both parties about how life is in the different countries. Very happy to be a part of that. :D
Am readying myself to go over to Vietnam to do a short course in teaching English as a foreign language and then hope to stay on to teach English. A one way ticket at this stage! :-)
But before my course starts I had to make time to go and visit the children in the orphanages around Kon Tum
. I leave Australia on the 4th of August and after a couple of nights stay in Ho Chi Minh City, catching up with some friends and checking out the course centre where I am taking the English language course (CELTA
), I fly out to Pleiku in the Central Highlands. It's then just a short 1 hour taxi trip to Kon Tum where the 6 Vinh Son orphanages are located.
Am looking forward to catching up with the many people that support the day to day operations at the orphanages, including the Sisters that do such a magnificent job there. And of course the wonderful children that have so much energy and enthusiasm.
Packing plenty of toys and books that Mum has been gathering and donors have given. Thank you very much.
Letter to Editor (Tallangatta Herald Sun, pg 2, Issue 858)
Last year I wrote to you in April about my impending trip to the Central Highlands of Vietnam to help in the six
Vinh Son Orphanages in the Kon Tum Province. I spent an amazing four weeks in June ’11 in Kon Tum, being guided by my friend Derek Smith, a Vietnam Veteran of the 1960/1970 war and his wife. During the time there I visited all six orphanages, which houses over 700 children between the ages of new born to
18years. The majority of the children come from an ethnic minority background.
Some are orphans but many have one or both parents living but can’t afford to care for the children and know that in giving them up to the orphanage they will be well cared for and educated. When I visited the orphanages I was immediately surrounded by little children all want to be picked up, cuddled and loved. I held them, played with them, helped the little ones at meal times and taught English to the older children. They love to hear you speak English so that they can hear and repeat your words.
Rotary very generously gave me $1,000 to spend and I also had other money donated, which I thank everyone for. I spent the money on medications for four orphanages, bought a medicine cupboard for another, helped provide medical checks and scans for 16 women who suffered with goitre problems (enlarged thyroid due to lack of iodine), while a large portion of the money went in setting up a Bread Co-Operative Project between the orphanages, to enable all six orphanages to receive bread rolls at least once or twice a week. Many of them had not baked bread for over three years due to the increased price of flour and the orphanages failed crops due to the typhoons.
In December 2011 I once again visited Kon Tum for three and a half weeks but this time my son David accompanied me. It was a very special time for us both, sharing new experiences, living and learning from the Vietnamese people. It was wonderful to see my Bread Co-op. Project continuing and to see that one of the orphanages had even built a new bakery.
I had raised over $700 at our garage sale held in Tallangatta in October and with other money donated from family and friends we were able to buy some much needed goods for the orphanages. We bought children’s story books, dictionaries, exercise books and pens & bright coloured posters to brighten up their class rooms. We also purchased bookcases for two orphanages. We were able to buy 40 sets of clothes (pants and top) at $7.50. Seven tables and 56 stools were bought for Vinh Son 3 as the children were standing up at an old wooden table to eat their meals. To take advantage of David’s computer skills we decided to purchase a computer, printer and internet access for a Vietnamese family.
Mr Ho teaches English at Vinh Son 1 and is a great help translating for us when we visit the orphanages. Mr Ho and his wife are raising their three grandchildren aged 15, 12 and 7 years old as their daughter and son in law both died over six years ago. The computer will be a great advantage to the children for schooling and for Mr Ho to be able to communicate with Derek in Townsville on continuing projects.
David and I enjoyed teaching the children English, singing lots of songs and carols, as we were there just before Christmas. David taught some of the children and their teachers “The Hokey Pokey” which was a great hit. We played “Drop the Hanky”, “Tug of War” & flew handmade kites beside the Dakbla River. There are very few toys to be seen but lots of happy smiling faces making up games with whatever is on hand. Prior to our departure in December David setup our web page, which is: www.friendsofkontum where you can see lots of photos & details of our time in Kon Tum.
I would also like to mention that all money raised or donated goes to the children of Kon Tum. I pay for all my personal expenses ie. airfares, accommodation, meals etc. I hope to continue to raise money for the children of Kon Tum by selling goods at the Albury Rotary Market and the Tallangatta garage sale in October. Any goods/donations will always be gratefully received.