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Projects in Vietnam

By Su Tu Phap Dang

As regular readers of The Mindfulness Bell know, in addition to offering teaching, and daily practice mindfulness experiences, we also share with you in each issue something of the social work projects that are coordinated by the community of Thich Nhat Hanh in France. In this issue, we offer a summary by monk-novice Su Tu Phap Dang of the projects currently most actively sponsored.

Educational Projects

We are supporting two day-care centers in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), two in Hue, one in Quang Ngai, and one in Long Xuyen. The latter is also a place for the elderly, a number of street children, and some abandoned infants. Adolescents, formerly living on the streets as prostitutes or thieves, are now taking care of the elderly and the abandoned infants. We are in need of sponsors to support these adolescents, and provide them with food, clothes, and housing.

Schools in Rural Areas

The School of Lovingkindness (kindergarten through second grade) is the main recipient of our support. These children have a strong desire to go to school, but the government does not provide funds for teachers in rural areas. Nearly 80% of rural children do not go to school at all. Often they end up going to the cities to look for work, and, having no skills, they end up resorting to crime in order to make money.

We now sponsor 80 teachers in rural areas, paying them a salary of 80,000 Dong/month each ($8 US). Most of these teachers are recent college graduates in their early 20s. Their classes are around 45 children each. For me, this is the most important program. When we help these children, we help prevent them from becoming street children in the cities and give them the opportunity to serve their country in the future.

In addition to supporting teachers, we provide 300 scholarships for poor children ($12/month each), 2,000 scholarships for students with good grades and good behavior ($2/month each), and 90 college students with good grades ($20/month each, for tuition, books, and other school supplies. $20 provides minimal assistance, so these students must also receive financial aid from their relatives, and by working.)

Medical Projects

We sponsor two medical centers in Hue, and mobile medical teams in Lien Tri, Long Xuyen, Quang Tri, and Nha Trang. The doctors, nurses, and staff all volunteer their time. Mobile medical teams go to rural areas to treat those in need of medical care, and they offer vaccinations for the children. No other medical treatment is available for these people. The team stays for a few days in each area. One trip costs $200 for medical supplies, travel expenses, and food. Support is needed for these teams to go on a regular basis, at least once a month.

Other Social Work and Emergency Aid

We provide emergency food aid to people who have lost their homes to floods and other natural disasters. For example, 208 flood victims were helped by our committee in the Cuu Long River area in 1991. We also assist a medical team of 25 people who visit 21 locations in North Vietnam, including leper camps, orphanages, schools for the blind, schools for deaf and dumb children, mental hospitals, and homes for the elderly. These teams provide medicine, medical examinations, and psychological care. Many of the elderly and disabled in Vietnam have no relatives, food, or housing. They survive by begging in the streets. $10/month can support up to three people. We also sponsor a number of orphans under 16 years old who live with their grandparent(s). A $12 donation each month can support up to three orphans.

How You Can Help

Because the need throughout the country is so great, the nuns, monks, and social workers we work with have difficulty deciding how to distribute the funds we send. One nun wrote that she cannot hold back her tears because so many children are in great need and she has such limited funds available.

If you would like to sponsor any of these projects-teachers, students, elderly, street children, abandoned infants, orphans, rural medical teams, or any of our other social work projects, please send a tax-deductible donation earmarked for the project of your choice to Community of Mindful Living, P.O. Box 7355, Berkeley, CA 94707 USA, or Eglise Bouddhique Unifiie, Meyrac, 47120 Loubes-Bernac, France. Your support is greatly appreciated.

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Thich Nhat Hanh January 15, 2020

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