Again this year I visited Van Don island and Quan Lan island in Quan Ninh province. This is 220km northeast of Hanoi near the Chinese border and beyond the famous Ha Long bay, a world heritage site.

Mr. Ito and Mr. Sakurai, two Japanese nationals joined with Mr. Nhat and Mr. Lam in Hanoi.

Nhat used to work for an NGO as an HIV/AIDS project manager and now works for different volunteer groups in support of relief from natural disasters like typhoons.  Lam used to work for a media company and is now a freelance reporter. Both men were introduced to Mr. Ito by one of the NPO-LESA English instructors. All are now good friends.

The purposes of the visit this time was to give a study scholarship to children who were born HIV positive and also to make a small library for the children as had been requested.  

It is five-and-a-half hour drive from Hanoi to Van Don island by car. We charted a wagon for sixteen people size and drove to the island with the more than one thousand books we had prepared in Hanoi. This drive was like a car chase in a movie due to Vietnamese traffic style and very hard for foreigners like us. We left Hanoi before 8:00 in the morning and got to Van Don island after 1:00 in the afternoon. The eight main members of the ‘Immortal Flowers’ group hosted us to a welcome lunch. In total 68 members belong to this group now and all of them are HIV positive and have already lost their husband, wife or their children to AIDS.

After lunch we were taken to a community hall. The children were waiting for our arrival.

All members started preparation for the ceremony and a NPO-LESA poster was hung up on the Ho Chi Minh statue wall.  Nhat then called out the names of 51 of the children on a list provided by the Immortal Flower group.

After the welcome song and greeting, Ito gave a study scholarship along with a Lotte chocolate individually to each child. (3,600 yen per child; in buying power in this district, this is equivalent to more than 36,000 yen per child) All children sang the most famous Vietnamese children's song in chorus with Mr. Ito playing along on recorder. The name of the song is ‘The Earth is ours’.  Mr. Ito practiced this song a lot before his visit.

After this ceremony all the members went back to Immortal Flower group office and started making the Kid’s library. Everyone helped carry the many books in the boxes into the office. They divided the books by subject and put a panel which said donated by NPO-LESA in Vietnamese. Big beautiful two bookshelves are prepared by Hanh, the Immortal Flower group leader. Ito also donated 30,000 yen for Immortal Flower group support. This is equivalent to more than 300,000 yen here and will be used for the next six months office rental fee.

After taking a memorial library photo with all members, we went to a welcome dinner.

(The books and bookshelves cost 150,000 yen, which is equivalent to about 1,500,000 yen worth here.)

The second day we gathered at the fisherman’s port at 7:30 in the morning. We visited Quan Lan island, where Hanh and Cuc were born, and took forty five minutes by speed boat to get there. I found that many young adults were passed away from AIDS even on this island. The population of this island is 3,000 but it is big island. This island is even poorer than Van Don island. One of the members of Immortal Flowers on this island had a list ready of 48 children. They got together in a small yard and were waiting for our arrival. Again Nhat called out the children's names and then Ito gave them each a study scholarship with chocolate as he had done the day before. Again the children sang ‘The Earth is ours ‘ together in chorus.

All the parents were reminded by Hanh not use their scholarship for purposes other than study.

I decreased the amount of the scholarship per student this time. This is because we found that parents would use the kid’s scholarship for other purpose if they got more than a certain amount.

And also I increased total number of children receiving the study money this time round and to do this included some poor children who were not HIV positive. The total number of the children who got scholarship is now 99 and the list of the children is at the NPO-LESA office. I will follow up and use this list again next year.

After the welcome lunch at a member’s home we returned to Van Don island and then we went back to Hanoi again by car.  

Thanks to all your help and cooperation we were able to achieve this scholarship and our goal of handing things out 'hand-to-hand.

Shinichi Ito wrote this report on Dec. 4, 2010

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Activity Report (3rd Contribution): Trip to Vietnam,  November 26-29, 2010

2009 Vietnam report ⇒