One of the first things I do every morning when I arrive at the orphanage is take some of the kids “out for a spin”. That’s basically pushing them in their high chair on wheels around the second floor of the orphanage. It’s such a shame there’s no ramp or elevator to take them downstairs to escape the monotony and explore the empty courtyard and playground below.
But one special part of the second floor I’ve realized the children especially enjoy gives them a glimpse into “the world out there.” It’s a fenced-in hallway that overlooks the bustling street below epitomizing Ho Chi Minh City – the buses roaring by, honking their multi-tuned horns every 3 seconds to part the sea of motorbikes.
One boy in particular, named Hien, loves sitting perched up there. Even with the double fencing, electric wires and trees obstructing his view, he seems to lose himself in all the activity below. He points at the buses and cars while giving me his huge open-mouthed grin I love him for. I wonder what goes through his head. He cries every time I have to tear him away from his perch – his little hand grips the wall as I try to move him.
Today, another volunteer and I carried Hien downstairs so I could push him around in the new stroller we bought for the orphanage. I ran around the courtyard with him, doing donuts with the stroller, till I could hear him laugh. And, of course, I had to bring him to the orphanage’s front gate to give him a ground-level view of the street he’s so mesmerized by. I wish I could’ve escaped with him – just for an hour – so he could live it, instead of just watch it. I can’t help but think about how he – most likely – will never be able to experience that world out there first hand. Only 2 out of the 32 children we work with can talk, and only 5 can walk with some or no assistance. That means most of the these kids will live at the orphanage till they’re about 18, then move onto another center for disabled adults, if they live that long. I just hope and pray they get adopted or get the chance to go to school, beat the odds and find opportunities to live their own lives.
The good news is that one of the little boys we work with, the clever one named Tam – a.k.a. “Naughty Boy” – is now going to school, outside of the orphanage, with other children who are more his speed. I also found out that we can sponsor children to attend school at the orphanage, which I plan to do.
For now – as I wrap up my month as a volunteer at the orphanage – I’m leaving behind some resources that I hope will help the kids live more comfortably. This past weekend, Lorraine (the volunteer from Ireland) and I bought the stroller, 2 high chairs on wheels, 2 walkers and 5 padded helmets for the orphans – all with donation money from our friends and families.
Today, we bought 20 more cylinder-shaped pillows and velcro straps to be delivered next week when I’m already gone. I’m glad to know these donations will make some sort of an impact on these kids long after I’m gone…and, at least, the stroller can help Hien continue to imagine a life outside those walls.