After competing in my second Grafton to Inverell Cycle Race and thereby raising approximately $A35,000 over the last two years, thanks to the generous sponsorship of many people, I recently had the opportunity to return to Vietnam to be part of the opening ceremony for the new facilities known as Village Chance.
Approximately 500 people attended the ceremony including all the beneficiaries and many of the local community from neighbourhood. The major guests included representatives of the diplomatic missions of Switzerland and the United States as well as representatives of the local government and International Federation of Maison Chance.
It was a privilege for me to be up to represent Maison Chance Australia and indeed I was the last invited official speaker of the ceremony. I took that opportunity to advise everybody keen interesting the work of Maison Chance and also to remind them that the focus of everyone’ must always remain on beneficiaries, that is the people in wheelchairs, the orphans and people from the poor people from the local community who benefit from our efforts.
Village Chance is the latest facility that was conceived to provide much needed accommodation for disabled families. To date the existing facilities at the Shelter provided adequate dormitory style quarters, but this was hardly suitable for married couples or families with young children. The Village now provides 40 apartments designed specifically to suit such families.
In addition it provides much improved classrooms and the existing school will be transferred from the Take Wings Centre to the Village over the next few months and those old classrooms at the Take Wings Centre will be turned over to provide space for additional vocational training for the handicapped, including painting, woodwork- carpentry, sewing and IT.
One of the most exciting features is the swimming pool which has the primary function as a rehabilitation pool to help the disabled. The water will be heated by solar panels and temperature will be maintained at the above 30°C. It has to be the temperature because the disabled feel the cold very quickly and would not be able to stay in the pool for long if it was any cooler than this. Needless to say, this is a very popular feature that I had a considerable amount fun as I help them learn to use the pool. For many it was the first time they had ever been in a pool.
Although the opening was the trigger for me returning, undoubtedly my main reason was to catch up with all my friends from two years ago and seeing how well they had adjusted both mentally and physically to their situation over that period of time.
We have to remember that many of the handicapped people have suffered in accidents that have cut them down in the prime of their lives. Some were abandoned by their families or had to leave their families because their relatives can not afford to provide the level of 24/7 care that is needed.
In many ways the physical adjustment of learning to live without the use of the some of their limbs is the easiest part of the process.
It is the mental anguish of feeling useless and having no purpose in life that is a long term ongoing struggle. And so to see nothing but smiling faces and meeting positive attitudes was once again inspirational. There is no doubt that there are many factors contributing to this process of rehabilitation.
Living in the wonderful caring and intimate family of Maison Chance is one; learning and gaining skills have led to a sense of purpose and improved self-esteem. Some have managed to gain sufficient skill to earn small amounts of money from independent sources whilst a few have been able to re-enter the wider community although they will still need some ongoing support from Maison Chance and last but not least knowing that there are people out there to continue to care for and support them.
It was wonderful to see that they have all progressed so well over the past two years and as the often say a picture says a thousand words. The following pictures say it all about their attitudes and wellbeing.
They will still continue to need all our care
And I hope to be returning to them soon.