This year for our annual company trip, the Hairloom team felt like we wanted to do something a little more meaningful, which was why we decided to include a community service aspect to our trip to Nha Trang, Vietnam.
So on 31 March 2015, we left for the trip in high spirits, knowing that we would be going to Mai Am Nhan Ai Orphanage. We brought along our cutting gear, as well as some clothes and toys that we collected to donate to the orphanage. However, we later realized that they needed basic necessities too, and the orphanage provided us with a list of things that they needed. So with the money collected from our generous clients (see bottom of post for the breakdown of what we spent the money on), as well as some from our own donations, we went to a supermarket to purchase what they needed: milk powder, diapers and cereal, which are considered higher cost items. We also got sweets, milk bottles, toothpaste and toothbrushes, as well as certain food items like Milo. As the home houses kids of different ages – from newborns to 18, we also bought different necessities for different age groups.
When we got to the home, we helped to unload all the things and also toured the place. We were brought to look at different rooms in the home and the facilities they had. While we initially intended to help cut the hair of the children, that didn’t happen in the end, as it was in the afternoon and the kids were all in school or about to leave for school.
More about the home
There are more than 100 kids living in the orphanage. Many of them have to share beds as there aren’t enough beds for each child to have one of their own. When the children reach 18 years old, they will have to leave home to fend for themselves. There were also a few elderly residents at the home, as well as mentally and physically disabled people. Some of the children were left outside the orphanage at night or early in the morning. Others were from the hospital where they were given up by their parents.
Life at the Orphanage
The children are involved in little tasks around the orphanage. For example, there is a little plot of land where the children help to plant vegetables and rice at the back of the orphanage, which provides sustenance for them as well. There’s also simple work like filling up bottles of mineral water for sale outside the orphanage. A lady works to patch old clothes and sew clothes for the kids.
Wood fire is also used here, so wood is cut for cooking.
The children go to school, often riding bicycles that are too big for them as transportation, which they still manage to manoeuvre very well. School is 8km away for the older kids and 2km for the younger ones. We were also left with the impression that the caregivers at the orphanage were really caring and responsible ones, and especially after hearing and seeing some horror stories floating around online about some really badly run orphanages, we felt especially glad that the children seemed really well cared for.
The children were really well behaved – they queued to get sweets and biscuits from us, and to our surprise, only took one each, without jostling or grabbing for more. They were happy and contented, and we saw smiles all around. Even with the language barrier, there seemed to be no problems really communicating with the children. They ran around us without any inhibition, and just wanted to hold us even though we were basically strangers to them. Some of them even climbed trees to pluck fruits to give to us as a show of their appreciation or welcome.
Impressions of certain children really stuck with us. Like how there was a 6 year old disabled boy lying in bed, and he seemed so happy to see us. We talked to him, and he was all smiles even though he probably didn’t understand what we were saying. Just our presence seemed enough to make him happy. In reality, we feel that we received so much more than we actually gave. What really struck us was the positivity of the kids, who showed their innocent joy and contentment playing with their big family of brothers and sisters, and this has really stayed with us, and we feel so touched and humbled by this. While we felt a sense of sorrow – every child needs and deserves the care, love and attention of their own parents – what we actually took away was a greater sense of gratitude and appreciation of what we already have: especially when we saw how simple things could make the children so happy. We felt determined to be more grateful for the little things in our lives, and more importantly, to cherish our loved ones even more. In the grand scheme of things, what we did that day wasn’t much at all – other than just simple gestures to show our love and hopefully bring just a little more joy to their lives. At the end of the day, we hope with all our hearts that they will have a good future ahead of them and go on to lead wonderful lives.
How we spent your charitable donations
We collected a total of $2360 (both from clients, as well as from the Hairloom team) for this trip, and spent 19880000VND (S$1994.30) to purchase items for donation. We also separately purchased 3000 pcs of toys, clothes and pencils in Singapore from the team’s personal funds. The remaining $365.70 has been donated to the Singapore Children Cancer Foundation. We hope to have more opportunities for community service in the future. Thank you so much to all of you who made this trip possible! P.S. Receipts for your reference: