Friday, March 11, 2005

Day 5: March 11, 2005

Our morning was spent doing interviews with the Voice ofVietnam Radio and VTV Television. It was an opportunity for our team to begin to articulate our feelings about what we had seen over the last days to the world. The children have certainly made in impact on all of our lives. The reality is my government, the United States government, committed chemical warfare that has affected innocent children. These children were never our enemies, yet they suffer like they are guilty of some crime or act. As Americans we were able to tell the Vietnamese people that we are joining the fight for justice.
News, though, of the case filed by the Vietnam Association of Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin against Dow Chemical, Monsanto Chemical, Pharmacia Corp. (and others) reached us. As we started the first interview with the Voice of Vietnam Radio, we learned Judge Jack Weinstein of the Eastern New York Federal Court dismissed the case. For a few moments, the team sat in silence, shocked of the news. At the moment, a surge of emotions flooded each person. Anger, shock, surprise, frustration are a few emotions felt that morning. How could my government, a government that says it stands for justice, turn a blind eye to injustice?
These feelings did not leave us paralyzed for long. After the initial shock had worn off, we rebounded with a message of hope. In each interview, team members shared heartfelt messages about how sad it was to see what the United States government had done to the Vietnamese people. But also intertwined was the optimism we have for the court case and justice. Members talked about the complexities of the American court system and that this dismissal was not the end of the case. Appeal to a higher court would be the next step. The Vietnamese people needed to be patient and in time justice would be served (unfortunately time is not on the side of some victims). We are hopeful and we wanted to share that with Vietnam. Victims of Agent Orange, their families and friends needed to know this was not the end of the case, nor would we allow this to be the end. We stand with them, the people of Viet Nam.
By Matt Laferty

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Vietnam Thursday March 10

I cannot believe it is already Thursday night in Vietnam, only two more days until we get back to America. We have done so many things here. We visited the Friendship village, the Peace village, and Hoa Phuong Village from Monday to Wednesday. This morning we visited Ho Chi Minh mausoleum. It is so touching to learn about his humble life. He was a man with a vision to free his country from any oppression. It took him a whole life to do it. But he was successful. Later we visited the Temple of Literature- the oldest university in Vietnam. It was built in the 11th century. I kept teasing my American friends on how old things are here in Vietnam, compared to things in the U.S. We enjoyed the traditional music show at Van Mieu. After the show, Chaplain and Eric decided to buy "dan bau" - one string instrument, an instrument that is present only in Vietnam. Others also bought a bunch of CDs, and other souvenirs.

We had lunch at KOTO, Know One Teach One, a non profit organization helping street children. KOTO teach them how to cook, and to run a restaurant. KOTO features a wide variety of cuisines. The food was good and the staff was excellent. We were in a hurry for a press conference and they were very quick in getting food ready.

Yes, we did have a press conference today. We really sparked interest among the people and the press here. Not olny did we do a press conference with Tien Phong online today, our team has been invited by the national radio station "Voice of Vietnam" to do an interview tomorrow. Tien Phong, or Pioneer Newspaper is the leading and a respected newspaper in Vietnam. We were given a warm welcome and divided into small groups. Each group had a computer and we were so busy answering questions pouring from all over the places. Our team loved it. We were given an opportunity to share our thoughts with hundreds of readers from across the country as well as Vietnamese overseas. I know most of the readers for this blog can't read Vietnamese but here are some links Tien Phong Online has about us
http://www.tienphongonline.com.vn/Tianyon/Index.aspx?ArticleID=3786&ChannelID=4
http://www.tienphongonline.com.vn/Tianyon/Index.aspx?ArticleID=3884&ChannelID=4
http://www.tienphongonline.com.vn/Tianyon/Index.aspx?ArticleID=3906&ChannelID=4

Tomorrow we will visit the Hanoi University of Education for further discussion about Agent Orange and just to learn about the student life here in general.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005


We are having fun yet?


Little 4 year old Trang at Hoa Phuong Orphanage

Day 3: March 9, 2005

Goodbye Hanoi, we are going to Hai Phong today to visit Hoa Phuong Orphanage. Hai Phong is a city by the coast which is about 3 hours away from Hanoi. I could only get in touch with the director on Monday and yesterday I was still faxing her and the provincial government the needed documents for our trip. I am so glad we were able to go today. My team seemed to enjoy the road trip – beautiful rice fields and water buffalo J. Today we also said goodbye to our lunch box. We were going to have lunch with the children there, and can I just say it was not simple lunch, it was like a feast? The food looked and tasted very yummy and the whole time there was loud music in the background. After lunch, we started off singing contest. Our team just learnt the Ho Chi Minh song last night and did not miss the opportunity to show it off. The children at the orphanage were no less talented. They sang both Vietnamese and English songs. Just as everybody seems to run out of songs, the floor cleared and we joined hands (and legs) in many dances. Chaplain excused himself from the dancing and held in his laps the two adorable girls. One was Trang, who later followed Kevin around. We only learnt from Ms. Ha, the director that barely two months ago, Trang was still on the streets and begged for her life. Something stuck in my throat even now when I think about it. The girl is so cute, and so adorable that you think she could only enjoy the best of life. But she endured such things that I am sure all of my team has never had to face in our entire lives. It explained why she tended to keep it to herself. Right after given the bottle of bubble, she barely played with it and insisted on putting it away. Only when I asked her for a picture, she took it out and blowed for me. Look at her in the picture, doesn’t your heart ache to think about what she has to go through? For me, the time there was more like a classroom visit than an orphanage because the children were very cheerful and some of the older ones were very stylish as well. Does it matter if they are orphans? They enjoy lives as much as I do and they might even appreciate what they have more than I do. They look out for each other just as one big family. I believe and hope that whatever reason that lands them in an orphan will not stop them from becoming the people they are meant to be.

We stopped for a brief visit to the beach on the way back to Hanoi. Some enjoyed searching for shells, crabs. Some just enjoyed the smell of the sea. It was a nice way to close an evening.

By Thanh

Tuesday, March 08, 2005


Flower for the women on March 8 - -International Women's Day

Day 2: March 8, 2005

Another full day (even more full?)

We woke up early (too why? No, we were up and moving by six) and had breakfast at Thanh’s house, where we were given another favorite food (which my taste buds remember, but I can’t recall the name) (Thanh: it is called banh cuon, or steamed rice rolls) and MANGO.

Today’s trip was to the Friendship village, on the outskirts of Hanoi, an international institution established y an American Vietnam vet to help children with Agent Orange. We watched a video explaining the mission of the Friendship and had a reception with the V.P. where we also gave our donations, gifts and left a little piece of OWU, a flag and pen.

Our group was then led on a tour of the village. We visited the children in their rooms, classrooms and work rooms – where they learn crafts and skills that could help them find jobs. Some of the kids were more severe, Down syndrome, growth difficulties and there were more kids there than at the Peace village. We bought some crafts the kids made for their stitching class. The crafts produced were incredibly quality.

After the tour we met with Suel Jones, and American vet livin in Hanoi and a fundraiser for the Vietnamese children fund. Besides three months during the summer when he returns to the States (Alaska) to fundraise, he spends all his time and energy with Agent Orange relief in Vietnam. Suel gave us valuable wisdom and insight into the problems and hypocrisy of the US failure to acknowledge war crimes, the use of chemical warfare in the Vietnam War. To us, Suel was an important piece to the puzzle of U.S. involvement in Vietnam now. Suel preached (actually I don’t think he’d like to be called a preacher) of how we need to take back responsibility for what our government has done, by doing something – anything. Taking what we have learnt here is a key to discovering more of what we can do as a collective country and how we can affect the lives of those suffering with Agent Orange.

One of the most striking things about the visit was the universality of youth and love. These children had problems and pains but you could hardly tell – they played and sang and touched just like any child would. Their deformities and defects however served for many of us as scars our nation has left on Vietnam. These children are third generation Agent Orange victims and a fourth is about to come.

After this emotional visit, we went back to our Hanoi pad and split up to take in more Vietnamese culture before dinner at Thanh’s. Most went shopping. Two of the bravest (Eric and Kevin) set out on the busy Hanoi streets in cyclos (bicycles with seats for passenger) and were thrown into the hustle of this expansive city.

Hanoi is unlike any place I’ve ever seen - traffic flowing and fearless without rules so much as nerve and skill. The city is open and people wre always moving out – shop doors open – and motorbikes are EVERYWHERE! The people of Hanoi work very hard – and yet seem cheerful – I’ve seen a lot of smiles. The drivers, like our hired driver Nam – have a godly street smart and an ice cool demeanors.

That might we had feast – the biggest yet at Thanh’s house. Matt did not finish his meal at all – what a dork. Anyway, we had a surprise after dinner (and a bit of singing) – a reporter from a Hanoi paper came and interviewed us. They found out about us from the Professor (who we were told very impressed with what we were doing) for a story on the New York court case against the chemical companies. It was so important to our mission to get our voice out to the Vietnamese that we as Americans care. Thus, we will take part in an online chat run by the paper.

After dinner, we have been given the best treat we could imagine – a trip to the massage parlor. We indulged in quality rubs – compliments of Thanh’s aunt. Along with back rubs, some of us were asked for marriage and complimented on our good looks. A note for all of you at home - looking good – no matter where you are- never takes a day off.

In reflection, we struggled to find the answers we are looking for, but the group is energized to discover how we feel about this amazing experience A resonating theme we see is the commonalities between our people and the need to spread our new knowledge as effectively as possible. Suel helped motivate us to really make a difference and go the extra mile to help the cause at home. The trial is approaching and we have found it is obviously important to the Vietnamese and newspaper. Tonight we devoted ourselves to keeping with the cause of Agent Orange till it is finished - to do everything we can. “We are all just people”

By Eric Magnus

Monday, March 07, 2005


Jenny and Jess at the Peace Village


Performing a little duet

Vietnam Day 1 Thoughts (Monday 03/07)

Flight was good and we reached here dafely. We are not too badly jet lagged, but our body clocks are still a little messed up. I will be posting thoughts from our journal entry by Melanie Hill and myself here.

Our Day 1 thoughts"

Quote from today: "I have learned two lessons in my life: First, there are no sufficient literary, psychological, or historical answers to human tragedy, only moral ones. Second, just as despair can come to one another only from other human beings, hope, too, can be given to one only by other human beings."
-Elie Wiesel-

Melanie says...
Today was a mix of emotions...joy, laughter, sadness, fearfulness, empowerment, humbleness, and the list goes on. We met
with the Vice President of the Vietnamese Association for Victims of Agent Orange (VAVA). He was a gentle man, soft spoken, but pasionate about his life and his cause. I found his talk inspiring, yet frustrating. The U.S. chemical companies has
given compensation to Vietnam Veterans with Agent Orange disabilities, although not verbally admitting the harmful affects this defoliant has on life. However, no recognition or compensation has been given to the Vietnamese Government on the same issue. In fact our government denies the use of chemical warfare and any farmful affects Agent Orange has on human life! THis makes me want to yell, scream, anthing to outlet my frustration...may anger. I have hope though, hope that we can make a difference, that we can change lives!! I truly believe that people will care. Thanh asked last night if people would care if they knew the truth. My answer to her is...some will and some won't. My hope is that most will! What do we do after we leave here? What can we do to make a chage...make a difference? We go back and educate. Ignorance is anger, hate, and
revenge, but knwledge is love, healing, and future. I honestly believe that even if we can change one person's views, educate one person, that that will make a difference. We MUST spread the word, spread the knowledge we have gained. We are now members of the world, and we now have a duty, an obligation to participate in this cause more than ever! So I ask you as members of my team, as my friends, as members of the world, and as members of the human species to go back and make a change!
-Melanie Hill-

Its getting late - we have to leave for the Friendship village. We will post the iternary for the whole day (i.e. what we did on day 1) soon!!!


Kumar and Eric trying to play the string game


Meet with Prof Nguyen Trong Nhan

Saturday, March 05, 2005

One last post before departure

It is now 2:30 in the morning of Saturday Mar5 ..only 4 hours before we leave for the airport. I just got done with some last minute stuff. It still does not feel like I am leaving soon though. But I am. The day I have been waiting for is finally here. Thank you eveyone for their hard work to bring us to this point. I am really looking forward to spending the next week with every one of you. Have a safe flight ...and I will try my best to continue posting when we are in Vietnam. Stay tuned for more information..:))

Monday, February 28, 2005

One week to go

Wow - Its amazing how close we are now! Begin thinking about packing and things...Heres a copy of the packing list for download. Also manteling service is coming up on Tuesday. All team members have planned on meeting at 6:00 p.m. in the Ham Will Food Court to have dinner together before going on to the Manteling Service in Peale Chapel at 7:00 p.m. Also since we're meeting at 6:00 for dinner, there is no meeting at lunch this week.

Kumar

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Almost there!

Wow, it is hard to believe Spring Break is almost here. Eight more days until our team leaves for Vietnam. It seems like yesterday we had our first team meeting and we were trying to remember each others names. And today, we are friends.
Today, I have learned that we have met and our financial goal! That is AMAZING! It was only a few weeks ago we needed $7200 (at the beginning of February). Now, today, we have more money than our expenses require. We will be able to buy much needed supplies for the two communities we are visiting. All it is now is getting ready for the trip. I know I cannot even think about it until I get through midterms! Thank God they are almost done for me. Old Testament on Friday and Russian (oral part) on Monday. Then I will be able to go shopping and start packing.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Countdown

19 days remaining until we leave (as of Feb 14th)

Visas

Nga emailed us all a little while ago saying she has received all our visas (except Eric's, but he will get it soon too when he sends it in).

Sincere thanks to the Vietnamese Embassy for recognising our team's purpose and our values and extending the generosity that they have!

I just felt like posting about the visas as well because its one more step towards our final goal. And its a major one! I couldn't go to the SBMW trip to Rome in my sophomore year because the Italian Embassy decided not to offer me (and another international student) a visa to their country. I was bitter because we had to drive in Level III Storm to get to Detroit to apply in the first place! to make a long story short, it worked out well in the end because I got to join the Lakota team to South Dakota where I learned so much as well!

But yeah, so we're almost half-way there with the Visas in our hands! The other half still remains to come - the airplane ride halfway across the world!

Garage Sale Outcome!

We held a Garage Sale in the Hamilton Williams Campus Center Food Court on Saturday 2/12/ from 9 to 3. I wasnt there the whole time. I could barely make it to help tear it down at 3 because Thanh and I were at the math competition. But it went really well. Thanks to all the individuals and groups who donated their items which we could sell. We ended up raising $700 for the team and we are almost there for our fundraising budget! We targeted it to the Delaware community who also showed up to support our team! The Delaware Gazette also helped by putting our advert in their classifieds as well as including a little "blurb" in the "Around the World" section! That was cool!

A lot of credit also goes to Melanie Hill who worked so hard at the garage sale inspite of facing such a difficult time personally. You're great Mel, incase no one has told you yet ;). Many people from our team worked hard to make the garage sale a reality and guys, this was well worth the effort and the time!

Hip Hip Hoorah!

Saturday, February 12, 2005


Faculty Luncheon


Saturday brunch in Smith

Yay Team!

My love for the team grows more and more as each day goes by. I remembered very well the day the team leaders got together to select the team. It was a DIFFICULT job. Many people were interested in our trip and many essays were strong. Even before the application was due, people who spotted me in the elevator, in the mail room or when I was on duty round, reiterated their interest in the trip after recognizing I am one of the team leaders. Lucky for me, I didn't have to promise anything to anybody because it was a blind selection -- meaning, I did not get to see the name while reading the application. Mostly, I based my judgement on the essays. Those who made it definitely had very strong, touching and meaningful essays. If I have not been the one proposing the trip, I don't think I could have written as good an essay as my team members to pass the selction. (Luckly me..and the moral of the story is..propose a trip..jk). As hard as we tried, a lot of time, we left it up to God to decide who should go. Our team is God's choice and He was so right and so kind to bring us together.

I really think we have grown much closer to each other now. I enjoy knowing each and everyone of you. We have almost made it through the financial obstacle. It is amazing how we do it. So dedicated, so passionate and so successful. We raised almost 7,000 dollars in less than 1 month. It was such a superb achievement. I thank you for your hard work and I am sure the children in Vietnam appreciate you a lot for this.

There are some pictures I took at the faculty luncheon on Friday Feb 4 and from the little Smith brunch we had together before the seminar on Saturday Feb 5. Nice pictures!

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Vietnamese New Year

I believe its the Vietnamese New Year today - the year of the rooster. Chuc Mung Nam Muoy!

Dr. Flamm from the history department had come to our meeting, at our request, to talk to us about the Vietnam war. I felt that he is an excellent speaker because he didnt ramble like a lot of people do. He went straight to the point and covered both perspectives - the American and the Vietnamese. He hasnt been to Vietnam yet, but what he said about today's Vietnam echoed what I have read in books, heard from Thanh and Nga and some other news sources I read regularly. That showed me how meticulous he must be when he reads and talks to people to keep the truth and chaff out whats not. Overall, I was impressed with Dr. Flamm and his knowledge and learned a lot. Some facts I remember from the talk - US forces sprayed 19 Million Tons of the defoliant named Agent Orange. There are children still born today with deformities caused by Agent Orange coming in contact with their parents or grand-parents. More than 2 Million people were killled or severely injured in the war from the Vietnamese side - thats 10% of their total population. There are still unexploded mines and bombs in the country which kill hundreds of people in Vietnam even today. Mind-boggling!

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Meeting Minute - February 1

I think we got a very productive meeting with lots of stuff got discussed. Good news at the end of the meeting, we have confirmed funding from WCSA and our deficit is only $4533 now, much better than $7000 earlier.

- Visa application: we decide that the $65 fee for each person will be taken out from the team budget. Kevin, who has got his own money order, can give his money order to Lisa or Eric who will submit their visa application later. The team will reimburse Kevin then. Please get your documents to Nga ASAP or let her know when you are expecting your passport.
- OWU Luncheon (Feb 4): cooks are needed in Nga's apartment from 3 p.m. onward on Thursday. Jess volunteered to drive to Chi Phi to fry spring rolls at 7 p.m. and Mel will help pick up the ingredients at 3 p.m. Remember to post up flyers and distribute inviations to your professors. If you have extra, drop them in the Chaplain's office so others who need them can take from there.
- Asbury Church Spaghetti Lunch: Chaplain will confirm the date this week
- Garage Sale: collect items
- Writing to department:Sociology/Anthropology and BoMi: Nga, History and Econ: Thanh, IS: Matt, Jess and Eric
- Donations: make an effort to talk to your doctors, dentists, hotel owners, etc. to get as many items as we can.
- Agent Orange documentary: will watch after the SBMW seminar this Saturday. Jess has suggested the Tree house. We need a VCD player to watch the VCD.
- Vietnamese dinner: Luong and Lisa cannot do Friday 11th, can we do Friday 18th then? Please let me know.
- 3 copies of the passport, 2 copies of the insurance card and the emergency form should be returned to Matt by this Saturday. Matt's box is 3012.

Important date to remember:
• Faculty Luncheon: February 4 from 12-1:30p.m. in SciCenter
• Garage Sale: February 12 Hamilton Williams Campus Center
• Spaghetti Dinner at Asbury United Methodist Church: February 20, 2005
• Pizza Delivery: January 20, Feb 25, Feb 27
• SBMW Seminar: February 5 1-3p.m. in Benes room
• Manteling service: March 2

I told you, we got a lot of things taken care of at this meeting. And if you are still reading, reply to this email and tell me what is the number you call for emergency in Vietnam? (Hint: Kevin read it aloud today)

Keep warm,

Thanh


Wednesday, January 26, 2005

My feelings

As the trip draws near, I am having a mixed feeling toward it. I know I am thankful for everyone in our team. This is the fourth time I involve with a mission team at OWU and this is the BEST team I have worked with. I am just amazed of how dedicated and hardworking each and everyone is. I am excited for this trip. I know everyone will have a great time.
I am also worried, will everything happen as I plan? Nga and I really start the trip from scratch and we have gone a long way. I am confident though that it will be a huge success. We have not gone yet but I am also hopeful that someone from our team might like this trip and Vietnam so much that it will continue to be a tradition at OWU.
I know the past few weeks we have dealt with financial issues. I don't think those hurdles will stop us from going. However, I would really like to have some time for team bonding. We have worked well together but do we really know each other. I just like this team so much that I want us to grow deeper friendship.
A lot of time, this trip is the only thing in my mind, especially lately. I thank everyone for the hardwork so far and I look forward to this renzdevous together.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Count down!!

Hey Everyone!!

I am so excited to be on this wonderful team. I hope that after our trip to Vietnam we can stay in contact and maybe even do some more projects together. It really is amazing to see you guys work. You go after a goal with no hint of weariness and every expectation of succeeding. You rock!!!

As we press closer to our departure date, what are some feelings you have about the trip, the kids, the experience, etc.????

Write back soon.

Lisa

Friday, January 21, 2005


at the bazaar
Click on the picture for larger size


The beautiful slates made by Melanie and Jess
Click on the picture for larger size


Preparing Vietnamese spring rolls for the Bazaar
Click on the picture for larger size

Friday, December 17, 2004

Bazaar update

I think the bazaar went pretty well from what I saw when I got there...its good - wemade some more money - I dont know the exact statistics yet, but if I know, I'll update it. Thank you team! I think we did great working as a team and helping make it a success!

Final exams are over today and almost everyone is done. However, I still have a homework due tomorrow (no one else's fault except mine :( ) I am trying to work on it ... but I just felt like blogging some and so am up here. Almost everyone must be home or wherever you are going for winter break by now. I wish everyone a merry Christmas and a happy new year. Hope the new year brings even more happiness.

I will be going to London on the 22nd. I am on campus until then. Trying to get my graduate school applications done before I leave. :) If you have time, please take a moment to post here what you are doing for the break, everyone! Lets keep in touch over the 3 week winter break! Take care and have a safe holiday :)! Bye.

Kumar

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Welcome to Bazaar

Alrighty, the day we've been working hard for is here. Its Bazaar today. Its actually going on right now - I'm at work and so can't be there, but I am waiting for the clock to turn 5, so I can get done and join the rest of the team.

The Bazaar has been organized by the Spring Break Mission Week program as a whole - every team is doing something or the other, trying to raise money. Chaplain is going to be Santa and Matt Laferty is going to be his elf (:o). Melanie had proposed we make crafts - little cristmas decorations/toys such as reindeer, angels etc and sell them to children as pre-made or make-it-at-home kits. A few members from our team have been working hard on it to get some crafts ready for the past two weeks. As of yesterday, we had already sold some to our friends/college students in dorms and made about $200. We will hopefully make even more at the bazaar today. Melanie and Chaplain also brought some slates and a few team members, who could make it, had gathered and painted them. I saw them last night and they looked awesome. Thanks to John Schaffer and ?? who have helped so much although they are not on the team. We also have Vietnamese food - spring rolls - we made about 100 of them yesterday. We have different varieties - vegan, vegetarian, & ones with chicken. They should bring in some more money! yay! So thats what we as a team have done. Thank you everyone for helping out so much - ideas, manufacturing, sales, and marketing! The money is rolling in.

Good luck to all our team members who are suffering through final exams this week! 4 more days to go! YEAH!

Kumar

P.S. As a reminder - If you're reading this and you like what we're doing, please help our team get there. You can do so by donating to our team (even a dollar helps), it will go a long way in getting us near our goal. We have to raise around $20,000 before end of Feb 2005. Please click here to go to our team-website to donate to us online. (Click on the "Click and Pledge" logo and enter your amount in the box next to "Kids without borders: Vietnam" link)

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Yay for our team! Did I tell how much I love this team. Its awesome. And I just hope we all can go there...It is really hard to cobble up a team that is so different and yet meshes so well together.
This team is really strong and I feel that it is my responsibility to do all that I can and all that is expected from me to help our team go there in its original avatar. Everyone who was originally selected - no one left behind.

Good luck to all of us who have been facing some or other problems. With God's grace, all the problems that are being faced will get resolved before the next semester begins :). If not, we will still work on 'em and make sure they get resolved. Good luck to all and Merry Christmas.

Love,
Kumar

P.S. I think our stuff for the bazaar is coming along really well. Good luck and thanks to everyone.

World in 90 Days -- Vietnam Log

This is part of the log from an American tourtist in Vietnam. For the complete article, visit http://www.worldin90days.com/vietnam.html

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
In the US, it seems that the war with Vietnam or, the American War as they call it here, is just a distant memory. As far as our generation is concerned, it's been over for a long time. We only know it through the films that we may have seen or through the veterans who we might know. Here in Vietnam however, the effects of the war are still everywhere. Whether it's the middle-aged beggar with no legs working a Saigon street, the completely pock-marked countryside of Cu Chi, or the child whose parents' exposure to Agent Orange caused him to be born with awful deformities, it isn't hard to find the war's presence here. The fact that the country is still recovering from a war that ended almost thirty years ago isn't surprising given that the US/South Vietnamese forces dropped more bombs on this small country than the total number of bombs that were dropped in the Korean and Second World Wars combined!
I think that all US citizens should visit this place. Certainly, the way that the war's history is presented here is peppered with blatant propaganda but it's important for Americans to see that our great country made a horrible mistake in waging war with these people and that some of the worst attrocities were committed at the request of our leadership.
In spite of all this, the Vietnamese people that we've encountered have the intelligence and grace to recognize that the American people, including the GIs, were, for the most part, strongly against the war. I have been treated with nothing but pure hospitality and generousity since we arrived and my initial fears of the people's reactions were quickly abated.

Lauren, we don't want you to leave

Our team first down moment happened today at the meeting when Lauren told the team that she might not be able to come along. Almost in tears, Lauren said that the idea of her going to Vietnam really upsets her parents and she has decided to withdraw from the team because she does not want to go against her parents' wishes. We all feel very sad for her. Lauren really wants to go, and she reiterated it so many times. Lauren parents's main concern is her safety, which is completely understandable. We all understand that parents are very protective and the idea of sending a daughter to a place half a globe away is really terrifying. It is very frustrating when you are in the situation though. As a child, what can you do? We all gave Lauren hugs and offered her any help we can give. We have decided to keep this on hold. Lauren will remain on our team for the time being, and hopefully over Christmas she can work it out.

It is true though Vietnam, as a country, has not been pictured very well in American people's minds. A lot of people probably think of Vietnam as a war-torn country with jungles, battlefields everywhere. Although the truth cannot be further away, Vietnam has itself to blame as well for not having done much to portray the real picture and encourage people to come and see for themselves. All I can say is that Vietnamese people are very friendly. Maybe I need to stop talking because I am a Vietnamese anyways and people would think that I am biased. Here is the quote I got online from a traveller,Ray Wittman , responding to a question about the hospitability in Vietnam " My experience with Vietnam is that of a tourist having traveled from Hanoi and envoirns to DaNang and on down to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) with a few stops in between.[..] I found the Vietnamese people exceedingly friendly to Americans. Some of them expressed the fact that they did not like what Americans did to their country during the war, but they really like American people. I found the Vietnamese to be very warm, generous, pleasant, inquisitive, always with a smile and all the good character traits that you could possibly want. All of this is quite surprising when you think that we were at war with this country just twenty-five years ago. All of my experiences in Vietnam have been pleasant ones." http://experts.about.com/q/209/498149.htm

Just as when you undertake a journey, here and there you face obstacles, the most important thing you have to find a way to remove them, go around them, avoid them but obstacles should not stop you from reaching your goal. We will keep Lauren, her parents and our team in our prayers and hope that we will be able to make it all to Vietnam without leaving anyone behind. If you have anything to share with Lauren, feel free to post it here.


Saturday, December 04, 2004

Weekly Journal Sign-up

Just as we discussed at the meeting today, it would be nice to have a person be responsible for the journal each week. This does not keep us from posting our thoughts anytime, any day, anywhere as we wish though. Below is the first 13 weeks starting this week. I volunteer to take this week. So if you can please post a message or a comment here to tell me what week you would like to take, that would be great!

The week of:
Nov 8: Thanh
Nov 15:Jenny Fabritius
Nov 22: Kumar
Nov 29: Jennie Brunsdon
Dec 6: Melanie
Dec 13:
Jan 10:
Jan 17: Jess
Jan 24: Dr. Lisa
Jan 31:Nga
Feb 7: Eric
Feb 14: Kevin
Feb 21:

Preparing, Sharing, and Growing

This past week’s meeting was focused on planning for our next major fundraiser. The Christmas Bazaar @ Ohio Wesleyan University is coming up on Sunday December 12th from 1 to 5 pm. Our team has decided to set up two different booths at the Bazaar. The first will be selling Christmas ornaments and slates, while the second will be selling Vietnamese finger foods. Team members who were interested in making the ornaments and slates arranged to meet Saturday (12/4) morning and the members helping with the food will be preparing it on Saturday (12/11) in the afternoon. Both groups will be meeting at Melanie and Nga’s house to work. Of course we couldn’t forget a special thanks to Eric our first buyer of the Christmas ornaments :) !

It’s difficult to believe that six weeks have already passed since our team’s first meeting. Throughout these weeks, we have kept busy with fundraisers and making arrangements for our trip, and we have also begun to bond. It is through this time of preparation that each member will join together to form our team. I believe that one of our most important team strengths, thus far, is our diversity. Looking around the room at our last meeting it was amazing to realize how different each one of us are. We all come from different backgrounds, countries, majors, and extracurricular activities/interests. This then enables each person the ability to bring to the team a different idea, concern, or perspective. I look forward to the upcoming months of continued sharing and growing into a team that will be able to make a difference in the lives of the children we will be visiting.

Monday, November 22, 2004

A Dedicated Team

At our past Thursday meeting on Nov.18, we had a great experience to grow in our bond as a team. Ryan Carlson, an associate chaplain at OWU was kind enough to guide the team in some team bonding exercises. We first did the get-to-know-you exercises where we each said a little bit about ourselves. We then did an activity where we were each given a number, which was not known to any other member, and were then to line up in order without talking while our eyes were closed. This was definitely a challenging task, especially since there were not only whole numbers, but negative numbers and decimals! Although we did not accomplish the overall goal, we did learn a little more about ourselves as a team.
As we grow as a team we will be able to realize our assumptions and help each other understand how to better utilize our skills in a joint effort. If we all work with each other and each use our gifts and talents to accentuate others' gifts, we will be able to form a tightly bonded team that will be able to not only understand each other, but be able to help each other at our weakest and strongest moments. These gifts and talents of the team as a whole and of each individual can then be used to help in our mission of serving others in Vietnam. As we continue our emotional and spiritual growth throughout the year, I know we will learn so much about ourselves and about the issues most important to us when we will be serving the children in Vietnam.
Every week, I become more excited for this team and for the mission that we will be embarking on. At every mission team meeting, there is a great sense of love and caring and a true desire to learn. I have been trying to learn more about the Vietnam War and Agent Orange and am realizing how much more there is to know about these things, and that fact makes me all the more excited to learn. I had never realized or really looked into how affected the Vietnamese still are by the Agent Orange, and now I've come to see how devastating this herbicide still is by affecting multiple generations. I really hope to share love and happiness with these children and let them know that so many people still do care about them. I know that the entire mission team also shares this desire and dedication to serve and love whole-heartedly.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Another Fundraising Event

On Thursday Nov 18, Jess, Melanie, Nga, Kumar, Kevin and Thanh joined the Widerness Trek team at a fundraising event at Gooseberry Patch. Gooseberry Patch is a local Delaware company specialize in selling cookbooks and decorative items over catalog. Our job was simple: Bag the Bags, meaning, putting gift bags into plastic bags. It was an easy way to make some money and it was fun as well. We got pretty good at doing it. We even had like a mini-production line going on as one person gathers the gift bags, one put in the plastic bags, and one seals. It was a good time for team bonding as well. As the work does not require much thinking, Jess, Mel, Nga and Kumar decided to dig into each others' lives and get to know one another at a deeper level. I heard questions like "Who are your favorite boys/girls on campus?" asked. Somebody said.."too many to count".

By the way, my apology this time for the pictures. I must be hungry or something because all the pictures turned out a little bit blurry.


From left to right: Jess, Melanie, Nga and Kumar

@ Gooseberry Patch


Kevin waves at the VN team
Click on the picture for larger size

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Online Petition Supporting Agent Orange Victims

Here is the online petition created by Len Aldis calling the international support for the Vietnamese Agent Orange victims .
http://www.petitiononline.com/AOVN/petition.html

Len is a British, founder and currently the secretary of the Britain-Vietnam Friendship Society. He is very passionate about Vietnam, especially the Agent Orange issue. He has worked tirelessly to bring justice to these people. If you feel the same way, please sign your name to the petition below and forward to others who could also support the cause. Len's goal is to get 1 million signatures. Currently the signature stands at 660,000s.


Sunday, November 14, 2004

Articles to read

I have done some surfing today (yes, again) and found these few articles from BBC about Agent Orange.

Agent Orange blights Vietnam
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/227467.stm
Robert Deselow reports that poisons dropped by the US forces during the Vietnam War have left a long-lasting legacy

Vietnam's war against Agent Orange
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/3798581.stm
The title says it all

Friday, November 12, 2004

Meeting Minute - Nov 11, 04

The meeting this week went well. Say hi to Lisa in CA and Jennie B. who could not come, we hope you feel better, Jennie (Chaplain will take over your Pizza delivery spot on Friday).
We discussed the following:
1.We decided to do an online journal. Everyweek, there will be a person in the team post a summary of the week. Anyone in the team can post their thoughts about the trip or our activity anytime.
2.Website for the Vietnam trip: we would like everyone to email Thanh with an introduction about yourself
3.Bazaar event: December 12, 1-5 pm at Gray Chapel.
- We plan to sell Vietnamese food (fingerfood), everyone will help. Nga is in charge of this food business.
-Origami/Craft/Slates: contact Lauren and Melanie.
-Calligraphy: possibly Eric and his mom (who is a professional calligrapher)
These are the ideas we come up with for Bazaar during this meeting. Lisa and Jennie let us know what your thoughts and any suggestions!!!
4. Derived from the Bazaar discussion, we are also plan to do a Garage Sale or Whatever Can be for Sale event next spring for fundrairing. This event is to be discussed in detail later!!!

This minute was put together by Nga. I just post it up here so we can keep everything together.

Monday, November 08, 2004

A volunteer in Hanoi

Yesterday, I was just blog-surfing and came across this blog from a fundraiser in Hanoi. He told his experience at the Friendship village with Agent Orange children. Friendship Village is on our itinerary so I think it would be helfpful for us to check this out.
Our Man in Hanoi: Happy Christmas - War is Over?

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Fund raising activities

God really blesses us. Last night we had pizza delivery and it was not too busy a night. Today we raked leaves for Sue Pasters and the weather is just so gorgeous. Orignially, we were supposed to rake the front yard only. We did it so fast and so professionally that Sue decided to hire us to rake her back yard as well. We did not complain. The money was good and we were having so much fun as well. So far we have raised as a team $400! Not so bad...$200 more to come for 2 nights of pizza delivery next week. We are getting there!! Good work, team!
By the way, Jess and Eric, I like your little duet on the way back.


The professional leaf-raking team -- 2 hours for front yard and back yard. Anyone wants to hire us?
The behind row (from left to right): Chaplain John Powers, Jennie, Jess, Kevin (he is the one with the bag on top of his head)
The front row (from left to right): Eric, Thanh, Jenny, Matt



The resurrection of Eric Magnus


Jess -- you are getting really good at this :)


Full view of the front yard
Click on the picture for larger size

Picture of the team


From left to right: Nga Nguyen, Matt Laferty, Lauren Griffith, Jess Schaffner, Melanie Hill, Eric Magnus, Thanh Nguyen, Kumar Chheda, Jennifer Fabritius, Jennie Brundson, Kevin Barron, Lisa Spradley and Chaplain Jon Powers

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Vietnam team and first impressions

Finally a team is selected and ready to go. For those who just pass by this page and have no idea where we are coming from. We are a group of Ohio Wesleyan students and faculty going to Vietnam over our Spring Break to share our love and care to the children victimized by Agent Orange. Agent Orange was the herbicide dropped by the American army during the Vietnam War to wipe out the jungles where the Viet Cong were supposedly hiding. The effects of Agent Orange are noted among many Vietnam veteran in the U.S. and even more so for many Vietnamese soldiers and people. Hundreds of thousands have died as a result of the on-going problems caused by Agent Orange. It is even more devastating as many more children are still being born with serious defects, such as peculiar body shapes, limbless, mental disabilities, etc.

Before I go on with the Agent Orange effects, which I am sure will come up many times going forward, I want to talk about our team. I am very happy about it, 11 students and 2 faculties. I think we have the very best people on campus. I was so touched to read the essays from the team members (I am sure Chaplain, Lisa, Nga and Jenny can echo on this). They are very thoughtful, deep and moving. I have very positive feelings toward our team and our trip. Everyone will have a great experience!

Last Saturday at the first Spring Break Mission Week seminar was the first time our team got together. We enjoyed learning a little bit about each other during the "speed date" activity. I am sure there is much more to learn about one another going forward. The team is just as excited as I am about the trip. The fundraising goal does not seem to set anyone back at all. Our trip is expensive...we need to raise around $18,000 by February 1st, 2005 to be able to go. We, however, are determined to raise more than that to not just cover our cost but also to help the poor children. Some help can really change a child's life.