Birthdays in Dai Loc

Vietnam is one of the most beautiful countries I have ever seen, especially the city of Da Nang. Da Nang has everything most people would love to have in a place they live. It has beautifully lush, green mountains and an ocean that never stops, but one of the most beautiful sights I have seen since coming to Vietnam wasn’t found in its landscape or even in its wonderful people. It was found within the walls of the orphanage in Dai Loc.

It happened shortly after I started working with Orphan Voice and with the children in Dai Loc. I was told that it was part of my job to foster the love of the children and help them to experience love. To me there’s no better way to do that then to foster a sense of family and one of the first things I thought would help us do that was to celebrate the children’s lives. So along with the others who were working with me at the time, we decided to throw a birthday party for all the birthdays we had missed for that year. We started with games and then ate some cake, then we gave them the small presents we had chosen for them.

The presents were purchased and wrapped with care, but I was nervous about how they would be received. I didn’t know the children very well yet and I definitely wasn’t sure about the ages of the 18 children we were celebrating, but as we handed them their gifts, my eyes were opened. They had each received a different book to read and when I saw how old some of the children were and how simple the books seemed in my eyes, I thought for sure many of them would look on the books with disgust and think about how the books they had received were too simple for them and that they were too old for such childish books. To my great surprise and delight, they all seemed to like them. In fact, in that moment I was overwhelmed as I realized that each of the books were read with relish and that when they finished one book, they traded with someone else and read the next book. I had never seen children enjoy books so thoroughly. It made me stand in awe that something so simple could be such a delight to them and at the same time it made my heart break that they would be so desperate for books, while I had grown up reading any and every book I ever wanted. What would it be like to grow up it such a way that even the simplest of books would be a treasure?

I only hope that in the future, they not only realize the value of the gifts they received, but they would realize that each of them have value and worth. That they are the true gifts and that life is the most precious gift of all.

Painted Nails

This is Lan.  To you she might just look like an ordinary Vietnamese girl.  Let me assure that she is not.  She lives in Dai Loc orphanage. I have had the privilege of seeing her beautiful face once a week.
Recently when we went for our weekly visit to Dai Loc we took nail polish to let the girls paint their fingers and toes with.  Lan sat looking at all the choices she had and I motioned to her that I would paint for her if she wanted.  She smiled and nodded yes, immediately picking a color and getting a chair in front of me.  I held her sweaty hands and painted her nails a glittery silver.  On each nail, she payed close attention to make sure that they were perfect.  When I was done with her nails, I motioned to her feet.  She looked at me as if to say, ‘Are you sure?’  I smiled back and pulled her foot into my hand.  There is something to be said about holding someones foot.  It is intimate, a way of saying to that person that you care for them with abandon of all the walls that they might put up.  That is what I wanted Lan to know; that I didn’t care how dirty her foot was, I was going to make it pretty.  I was going to do something seemingly insignificant, but something that would make her walk around smiling at her feet.  So I sat there holding that dirty little foot, hoping that she would eventually be able to see the true beauty that was so tenderly used to create her. That every time she smiled at those nails, her spirit would realize what she was made for.  I believe that those painted nails can make all the difference. –Shea Poole, Orphan Voice volunteer

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