I could feel the adrenaline rushing through my veins as the plane landed on the runway at the Tan Son Nhut International airport. After going through customs and security checkpoint, my mother and I hauled all of our luggage out to the front of the airport to be picked up. It was approximately 5 pm Wednesday when we stepped foot onto Vietnam. My mother and I headed to the local Phuong Trang station to take a charter bus to the city of Dalat. For the next two days, we would be visiting The Blind Association of Lam Dong and the underprivileged children of Huyen Cat Tien.
Our charter bus took off at 7PM and it would take approximately 7-8 hours to get to Dalat. Honestly, traveling with my mom alone was pretty scary. We had a total of 4 suitcases and 2 additional boxes of necessities and treats for the places we were visiting. All this was way too much for us to haul, but we were so excited to personally give what we could to these needy people.
My mother and I slept most of the way there, and finally arrived in Dalat at 2am. The local Phuong Trang hotel was all booked and we had a little trouble finding a vacant room at first. In the end however, we were able to find a place to stay for the night. It was already 4, so there was no point in sleeping. Bich Thuy, our friend from Dalat came over to our hotel at 5 am to help us sort of treats that we would be passing out at the Blind Association that morning. At 7 am we headed out to meet college students at a local University in an organization called Cau Lac Bo Tam Duc. These boys and girls normally participate in charity events around the area and in places that seek for their help. It was actually through them that we heard of the two locations we would be traveling to in these two days.
My mother and I and the rest of them hopped onto the van and headed to the Blind Association of Lam Dong.
We made our way into the little house that they had which contained over 40 Blind people of all ages. There were children, teenagers, and even adults. This was my first time seeing such a sight and I didn't know what to think. Growing up in America, I never saw conditions like this. These people lived in a raggedy house and certainly lacked the necessities of life. Going from one room to another, (and by this I mean just a total of 3 rooms); all I could see was a bunk bed and a few small blankets and pillows that they used day after day. Their kitchen was old and dirty just like the rest of the house. After all, their priority was to make it through day by day, I guess it didn't really matter how they made it through. Quality of life was just too low, to the point where it barely event existed. The leader of the Blind Association called everyone out to the front yard so that the college students and I could spend some time with that. During this time, my mother and a few other girls from Tam Duc set out to buy ingredients to make Ca Ri Ga. I stayed back along with the rest of the people from Tam Duc to spend some quality time with the people. We passed out treats that my mother and I brought from America and just sat around and sang songs and mingled. What I noticed and really admire about these people is that although they are unfortunate, they never see this as a reason to give up. Instead, they continue to fight for survival everyday and try to make the best of their lives. Although they can't see what the pretty world out there is like, they still try their best to do what they can to make their lives normal. The majority of them are very good singers, and it felt very satisfying to sit there and listen to all of them sing together just a like a choir we would find in a church. Their voices sang happily in unison as another member would play guitar. It was amazing how many songs one of the guys could play even with his disability.
After my mother came back with ingredients for lunch, the rest of Cau Lac Bo Tam Duc and I set out to follow her directions to make a delicious lunch. Some of us peeled potatoes, some washed the chicken, and some cut the bread. It was basically a group effort that was made purely from the heart. After several hours, the chicken curry was ready to serve and we brought out tables and chairs to the front yard to hold over 40 people. All the blind people sat down as the students and I served them lunch. Each person got a bowl of curry with vermicelli and bread. We stood around to watch them eat and served them what they needed. It was an amazing feeling watching them eat so happily, as if they have never gotten the chance to eat anything like it before.
After they finished eating, we cleaned of the mess and sat down to mingle and eat ourselves. It was my first time meeting the people of Tam Duc, and it only took this time for me to gain such high respect for them. They were just like me, my age more or less. They weren't rich, but they had one thing; a rich heart. Their hearts were filled with love and gold and they were willing to put their time and effort out to help the less fortunate instead of spending their free time out hanging out with friends or wasting their days away.
The total amount of time I spent at the Blind Association was about 6-7 hours. In those 6-7 hours I learned many things that I will remember for a life time. I learned that no matter how unfortunate you think you are, there will always be people in this world that are even less fortunate. When you complain about something or say life is unfair, just realize that there is someone out there who is having it worse. What I admire most about these blind people are that they never see their disability as a reason to stop them from doing what they want. They sing, they dance, they play music, they use computers, and some even work part times jobs to make a living. Some of them actually live in this house, while others just come and go through the days because they also have their own families at home. A few of them are actually able to see mildly, and these people are in charge of cleaning the house and cooking and so on.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that I really admire their strong will to live on. They live happily with each other even in the condition that they are in. They don't have much at all, in fact, they lack much more than other people around them; but they still strive for the best in life.
I learned many things just by staying here for one day. I am so lucky to born in America, to have practically everything I can ever wish for, to have endless opportunities in all directions. They aren't like me, they don't have any of this. Given the life that I have in America and seeing what I have seen here, I have made it my goal to do everything I can to make a difference. I know I can't save the world, but I can save a small part that I know is in my capability. It is my goal to come back to Vietnam every year to help the needy, to give them what I can in order to make their lives a little better, in order to give them a ray of hope, showing them that there are people in this world who care.