Archive for February, 2017


February 2017 – 4. February, 2017

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This is the beginning of spring flowers, the 7 day Tet or Lunar New Year holiday and marks one year since our move to Duc Pho from Hanoi last February 1, 2016.  Like last year, our landlord and neighbors invited us to accompany them to visit family during Tet in the surrounding country side.  Only, this year for Tet, other staff also invited us to their homes and we felt a little more comfortable with what was expected and how to act.

The past two months have challenged us emotionally as we went along with the staff on assessments of persons and their home environment who have been affected by Agent Orange birth defects. Universally, we observed the loving care and coping of the family members caring full time for these children. Some of the children already attend the day care center and receive therapy there.  Several others had tried attending, one with the help of a neighbor to provide transport, but had difficulty adjusting. The goal of the training program is to collaborate with the staff to develop individual goals and therapeutic activities in the homes for the children and their families. The challenge will be to focus on what we and they can do, and not on the overwhelming physical, mental and social deficits presented by some of the new contacts.

For many of the families and trainees the person with disability is often seen as someone who “cannot do anything” or is not expected to be able to do anything.  Truly, for some persons their reality, as I see it, is also daunting and does not produce many ideas for activities to perform at home by and with the family.  An 18 year old who is agitated and needs to be physically secured in a small room for her safety when the family is engaged in living, who becomes very agitated when anyone not familiar approaches and attempts to strike out. Or another person who scratches and bites herself with distress with no clear cause for her agitation or an 11 year old who is twisted with Cerebral Palsy so that placing him in an upright position for better air control is not manageable by the grandmother who is the sole caregiver during most days.  We pray we might find the language of love, energy and strength.

The comprehensive assessment form with simple yes/no answers has worked better than we anticipated. Using smart phone photos and videos of the children has helped Esther supplement the form even when she, herself, has not met the children. At the end of the month we have another two day training session with an interpreter to assist the staff with starting therapeutic activities in the homes.

At the center it has been exciting to see some of the creative activities by the staff and some of the changes by the children.  The center recently purchased appropriately child sized folding tables that can be rearranged for group activities.  One day we observed them working in small groups to learn how to blow air through a straw to create bubbles in a soapy water basin.  First each child experimented with a small cup to make sure the children understood not to suck the water but instead blow. This activity provides oral motor control, cause/effect, and regualtion of breath control using the therapeutic purpose for such an activity.  Another day when Esther was not at the center, a staff doing individual therapy with a hyperactive, child who could not focus, sent a video of him now playing with a balloon and small plastic racket.

This past month we went on a shopping trip to Da Nang to purchase additional educational games and toys the staff can use.  We were able to find key items we saw being used when we visited the Kianh Foundation Center the beginning of December. The staff already have seen a model of some of the toys and games being used in a special education type setting.

At Christmas we spent a little over a week in Hanoi, our first visit to the big city since moving here last February.  It was great to meet the new MCC workers who will be living and working in Hanoi and spend time with colleagues of faith through the Hanoi International Community Church.  We also took two days to go on an outing to celebrate our 47th Anniversary.  That was special since the hotel added rose petals and a special greeting with cake to add to the celebration!

The beginning of January, new MCC workers, Josh and Beth Kvernen and their two sons, Soren (3) and Than (5) visited us along with Hanoi office staff and Major Treadway, the co-rep for MCC Vietnam. They will be developing learning tours about the legacy of war, especially Agent Orange.  Together we were able to visit some of the families who received cows and learn more about their personal exposure to the spraying during the war and the effects on them, their children and grandchildren.

In another week we will join the other MCC workers and project partners for a Southeast Asia retreat in the city of Siem Riep, Cambodia. We hope for good health and inspirations which will bring us back with new vigor to continue to share the love and concern for others which we are meant to share here in the world.  Health and strength for each day continue to be a gift we do not take lightly.  We feel blessed by each breath.

Wishing each of you joy and peace for your journey,

Esther and Paul

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