On 1st November, 2020, students of Thang Long school visited Thien Binh shelter in Dong Nai province. Visting different shelters is an activity that Thang Long school organises annually for its students, so that they can see from the perspectives of those who are even less fortunate than them, to appreciate what they have and learn the lesson of giving. This year, the students did not just visit the shelter, they took a pro-active approach to organise a funfair for all the residents. Below is the reflection of a student after the trip.
‘Happiness is a wonderful thing. But you only get it when you share it with someone else. ” And for me, happiness is what I received after a volunteer trip to Thien Binh Shelter – Dong Nai.
After I heard about the event, I was pretty excited and decided to register to join. Thang Long school has planned to set up a fair there in other for everyone to have fun, exchange and give gifts, so I decided to buy some candies to bring to Thien Binh Shelter, everything is well-prepared, ready for this meaningful trip.
6 a.m. on 1st November, 2020, two buses carrying me and 73 other students of Thang Long School and the teachers departed to Thien Binh Shelter – Long Thanh – Dong Nai. My first impression of this place is the peaceful atmosphere with towering bamboo rows forming a large gate leading to the children’s living and learning area.
We divided into groups and started with the first activity to clear the weeds that grew from the backyard. The tools have been prepared, the volunteers enthusiastically embarked on the assigned works. Some picked up the tall grasses with hoes to make the soil looser so the roots go deeper into the ground. Some used rakes to rake the grass above. And some used a knifes to cut all the grass in the garden. After nearly two hours of hard work, we finally completed our first task well. No more grass, only vegetables and fruit trees remaining.
The fair would be held in the afternoon. The groups started brainstorming ideas to decorate the area where the fair was held and setting up game stations. There are 8 game stations so children can come and have some fun. There is also a special music exchange station, where members from both sides can come and sing some songs.
After the stations were well- organised, we were led by Thien Binh Orphanate’s volunteers to visit the elders’ area and the children’s areas. Seeing the smiles and happiness on their faces makes me feel very emotional. In the small kitchen, the nuns are helping to prepare soup, meat and vermicelli for the elders. I also took part in preparing food. Talking with the nuns, I learned that many elderly people have been here for more than 10 years.
“Today we welcome some sponsors comes and bring us some delicious food, so let’s enjoy it,” A nun said to the elders. She also told us that there has been a long time since the last sponsor visit, so everyone here is so happy about our present. They went to the kitchen by themselves to receive food and brought it back to their room. I remembered there was an old lady, though her hands were weak and shaky, she still wanted to bring food back to the room by herself, after a while of convincing, she let me brought the hot soup back to her room. I stepped into her small room, put the soup on the table and looked around the room, I saw the shell of the wrapped of the instance rice noodles, has not yet been thrown away to the bin.
I thought to myself that, at the age of this old lady, she might instead living in the love and cared from her family, but she could not. Each eldẻ has their circumstance, they meet each other and become a great family, loving and accompanying with each other for the rest of their lives.
Leaving the room, I continued my journey to the living area for the children. Suddenly, I saw a third-grader and a sixth-grader were dividing the work of drying clothes. The two brothers coordinated very well, even several buckets of full clothes were dried neatly on the pole. Chatting with both of them for a while, then I have to continue my trip, so I said goodbye to them and gave them some of the candies.
I walked into the big room with the babies crying for a nap. The babies were receiving the nuns’ care. At Thien Binh Shelter, the nuns play the role of both fathers and mothers, lovingly raising these disadvantaged children.
Then the afternoon came and the fair has been started, the children were very eager to play games and receive gifts. Maybe because it has been a long time since the last time that they had a fun time like this. We were talking and having fun together. Seeing the radiant joy on the children’s faces made me feel very emotional.
We ended the trip with the group photo session. Surely everyone had a good time together. We said goodbye to the nuns, to all the elders, to the friends and the babies. After those greetings, wishes were sent. we got on buses and returned to Saigon. I hope that one day I can come back to this place to visit all those disadvantaged but lovely people.
A voluntary trip left a lot of mixed feelings in me. I felt that I am still very lucky because I still had loved ones, I felt more empathise with vulnerable people and I thought that I need to open up my heart more to help these people have better lives.
Thank you Thang Long School and Saigon Children’s Charity for organizing such a meaningful trip. I hope that I could be able to take part in the next wonderful voluntary trips like this.