|Shipshape: Kids in the Hai Chau Home have learnt how to keep their house tidy. They do their own homework, but the centre invites tutors to help teach the older kids outside regular school hours.
|Friendly atmosphere: Nguyen Thi Phuong Uyen, 3, enjoys a good life with friends at the Hai Chau Home in Da Nang City. The centre is home to 22 underpriviledged children. — VNS Photos Cong Thanh
Giving back to kids
Giving It Back to Kids was established by Robert Valentino Kalatschan and his wife Dorothea in 2002 after they visited Viet Nam to adopt a child.
The organisation, which celebrated its 10th anniversary in Da Nang last week, has provided US$3.2 million for charitable programmes since its inception.
They include a programme that helps 31 single mothers and girls, covering the costs of eye, heart and orthopaedic surgery for over 1,000 kids, and donating around 62,000 wheelchairs to people with disabilities.
A centre sponsored by the US-based charity Giving It Back to Kids is home to 22 children, aged 3-18, from homeless or underprivileged backgrounds. It provides psychological and emotional support, plus a good education. Cong Thanh
Three-year old Nguyen Thi Phuong Uyen lives in the Hai Chau Shelter in the central city of Da Nang after surviving her earliest years on the streets with her mother.
Uyen, aka Chip-chip, was born out of wedlock in 2009, and lived rough with her jobless mother until she was taken in by the shelter after the father left them last year.
The centre, which is sponsored by the US-based Giving It Back to Kids, is home to 22 children aged between three and 18 from homeless or underprivileged backgrounds.
"We take care of poor children whose parents are unable to support their families. Most kids are malnourished when we take them in from the city's Department of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs," said Hoang Thi Thanh Huong, who manages the shelter.
"Uyen was scraggy and seriously malnourished when she arrived last year. She cried every night because she missed her mother, but she soon got used to her new home," Huong said.
"Kids are safe here and can enjoy full-time education and a loving environment. We also try to give them a better future through vocational training when they graduate from high school," she said.
Luong Kinh Kha ended up at the centre over the Lunar New Year holiday in 1999 because he had nowhere else to go.
Kha, 13, lost his father early in life, while his mother married another man after she was released from prison.
"He refuses to talk about his parents, who were accused of drug trafficking. But he studies well at the Kim Dong secondary school in the city," Huong said.
"He is an only child who is psychologically vulnerable, so the nurses at the centre look after his nutritional and psychological welfare," she said.
La Thi My Duyen, 13, whose grandmother was unable to care for her after her parents divorced, now enjoys a good life at the shelter.
Duyen, from Thang Binh District in the neighbouring province of Quang Nam, enjoys studying physics, and dreams of becoming a teacher.
"My grandmother is very old and poor. She cannot afford to feed me anymore, and my parents have their own families," Duyen said.
I enjoy life with my friends and carers at the centre. I hope to be able to find a job so I can take care of my grandmother," she said.
Tran Anh Dung, 17, who has lived at the centre since 2008, is in training at a barber-shop where he hopes to get a job.
"My parents divorced when I was eight. I was taken in by my father, but he then remarried. I could not live with my step mother and my father was too poor. I became a street boy before I had finished primary school," Dung said.
"I had to live by myself on the streets and sheltered anywhere I could. Luckily, that all changed when the centre took me in four years ago," the 17-year-old confided.
"I'm very fortunate because I've had the chance to live a better life. If I'd stayed on the streets, sooner or later I'd have turned to crime," he said.
Dung struggled with his education, particularly reading and writing, for years because he was a late starter, but now he is quite proficient and plans on opening his own barbershop in a years time.
Nguyen Thi Xuyen, 50, has been in charge of cooking for the centre's 22 children, half of whom are teenagers, for the past decade.
"I volunteer at the centre. My family live in poor conditions, so I sympathise with the kids, especially because they do not receive any parental love," said Xuyen.
"I cook for them and care for the younger ones. They often cry at night and need soothing. I have to hold Uyen, the smallest kid, at night because she left her mother too early," she explained.
She added that teenagers at the centre are no different from any others, and can be stubborn and a challenge at times. Carers face a difficult task teaching them subjects such as sex education and psychology.
"All the children at the centre do their own homework, and they have learnt how to keep the house tidy. The centre also invites tutors to help the older kids with further education outside regular school hours," the centre's manager Huong said.
She added that the centre covers all the children's costs until they finish high-school.
"We also provide financial assistance to teenagers, who pass the examination into university or vocational training centre. We create the most favourable conditions to help them make their own lives with a better future," she said, adding that the centre has built a new centre, Mary home, for 11 orphans. — VNS