Thursday, January 13, 2011

Go Vap and Tam Binh Orphanages

I had high hopes for Wednesday and I was not disappointed. We visited two orphanages with Mr. Thanh. The first one, Go Vap is where Paul's Kids has donated a physical therapy room. We were allowed to photograph children receiving therapy for various challenges. I was impressed with the love and commitment - the relationship that the therapists have established with the children living there. Ultimate trust and joy resides in this clean and happy place providing these most unfortunate children with a home and a hopeful future. After lunch, (more pho, sweet coffee and actual french fries for Amity), we arrived at Tam Binh Orphanage. This is the place that you may have seen in our original "Vietnam Video" where Amity spent the first year of her life. We retraced our original steps and had fun quoting ourselves from the narrative, "Finally...Tam Binh Orphanage, once a name on paper..." We were greeted by the director who had been on staff 13 years ago when Amity lived there. I brought out our pictures of Amity from that time and she remembered her. She was thrilled to see this beautiful American girl, grown so confident and strong. I could taste her pride and my own. She accompanied us upstairs to where the babies hang out with their caregivers. We held and hugged lots of gorgeous little boys and girls starting their lives in this loving environment, waiting to become citizens of the world. In fact, there were three boys about to leave to be adopted by French families. "This guy may grow up to be a famous French chef," I said to Amity. "This one a doctor, and this kid who knows?" Amity said, "I love France!" as we fantasized about what was ahead for them. Then Amity's primary caregiver walked in. She remembered Amity well. When I saw the light of recognition in her eyes, I knew I was standing in a moment I would never forget. We hugged and held on to each other long and hard. She spent time just looking at Amity, beaming with pride like a grandmother at her grandchild's coming of age. We asked questions about what Amity ate, her health and how she was cared for. "Just like this," she said with a wave of her hand. We sat in the dappled light on that terrace surrounded by loving caregivers and their bouncing charges, laughing, 'kibitzing,' listening and understanding the universal language of women 'kvelling over' Amity in Vietnamese. The discussion revolved around her braces, her tanned skin, her dimples, her American sense of style and expression. Amity handled it with grace and aplomb as if it were her graduation party. We distributed cheerleading pictures, 6th grade school portrait (with Obama for President button pinned to her shirt), 8th grade school portrait from Haverford Middle School, and as they held and fed the babies, these loving women nodded in recognition and beamed with pride sharing the window on this blossoming young woman's life. They knew her when...
-A great day, and for me what this trip was all about.

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