- From the center of Hanoi on the International Children’s Day (June 1 2011), we passed through Chuong Duong Bridge on our way to Bo De Pagoda in Long Bien District to join the party of love and fun organized by Solidarités Jeunesses Vietnam
(SJ Vietnam) volunteers for the orphans and children with disabilities who are being fostered in this pagoda.
Compared to other pagodas and temples in Vietnam, Bo De Pagoda may not have the typical tranquility of other religious places of worship. And this was especially true on International Children’s Day as the pagoda was filled with the excited shrills and laughter of the children as they were treated to fun activities prepared by international and Vietnamese volunteers.
In one corner of the pagoda children enjoyed playing a fishing game, in another, an apple eating game, all the while volunteers cooked up some delicious pancakes for the day.
The pagoda is not only home to female Buddhist monks, but also nearly 200 children and women with difficulties. It is common to see volunteers at this lively pagoda. Currently, SJ Vietnam provides five regular international volunteers and around 20 part time Vietnamese volunteers. The volunteers care for the children and involve them in learning activities and games to keep the children stimulated and active. Many of the children have special and diverse needs making the role of volunteers challenging, yet very important.
To add to the celebrations, Do Thi Phuc of SJ Vietnam, and Ruby Banez of UNV Vietnam, presented toys and other materials to the children on behalf of the International Volunteer Day
(IVD) 2010 Organizing Committee. The donations added to the excitement for the children at this special event.
Previously, on 31 March 2011, with the support of VSO volunteer Pat Sawyer, half of the funds raised at IVD 2010 were used to provide toys and basic learning materials for the activity room in the Hanoi Centre for Orphans, Disabled Children and Homeless Elders, located in Thuy An District, Ba Vi Commune, Hanoi . Two months after the donated learning materials were provided, the centre’s vice manager Mr Phung Cong Loi informed us that the donated learning materials have been very effective in helping the children with learning difficulties. It is expected that the materials provided at Bo De Pagoda will be similarly effective.
The smiles and innocent faces of the children at both the Bo De Pagoda and the centre in Ba Vi, express gratefulness to the volunteers who have been helping and caring for them. As volunteers, we hope that we have not only provided these children with the materials to improve their lives, but also that we have contributed a small part of ourselves to enrich and inspire this next generation to have trust and hope for their future.