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Published: March 20th 2008
Miss Ngoc Ha
My guide from East Meets West was an excellent translater and liked my Rotary Cap.
Hoa Van Leper Village
During my research of the work of Rev Gordon and Laura Smith I read about how they starting a village for people suffering from Leprosy. He founded the leper village just North of Danang in a beautiful cove between Danang and Hue just below Hai Van Pass. It sports a beautiful beach.
He picked this spot for several reasons: It was isolated and the average citizen didn’t want to live next to lepers. It was beautiful place which he thought would affect the minds of the leper patients with a good outlook on life. That thought is reflected in the what he named it-Happy Leprosarium. After the war it was renamed to Hoa Van Village.
The people suffered from more than just a disease. During the war they were attacked once and the village destroyed. They had no place to go so they built back.
Today, they are partially supported by the government and they do their best to make a living from the sea and some farming.
I found out that the village still existed from Ken Lifton web page. He is a fellow Vietnam Veteran who had visited the village
Hoa Hiep Bac People's Committee
Headquarters of People Committee
and told of the needs of the villagers.
I decided to make this a special mission of the Larned Rotarians to bring medical supplies to the villagers. We were allowed two suitcases. I talked fellow Larned Rotarians who were going on the Library Tour to devote one of their suitcases to bring medical supplies to the villagers.
This was an effort for all of us as dragging two suitcases plus hand luggage is no fun. But, being good Rotarians Anita, Tom and I brought three suitcases of supplies to Vietnam.
We had to have permission to go to Hoa Van Village. The in country representative of the Library Project was no help so I turned to the East Meets West organization. They got right on it and after being in country almost four months finally got permission.
A lot of the delay in going was red tape but also weather. From December to March Danang has some pretty bad weather. The seas are rough and the government wouldn’t let us go.
Anita and I had delivered the medical supplies to the People’s Committee in December. So, the only reason for me going was to get
On the way to the boat.
45 Minute boat ride on a veryly slow boat.
a first hand look at the situation and to find out the needs of the village.
The Mormon Relief Agency that had given us the medical supplies said if I found out what they needed and they had a clinic with a doctor they would make regular shipments to them.
So I went, took notes and observed first hand some of the needs of the leper village. I found a beautiful place. The medical supplies we brought were being used and they were very happy and grateful for them.
The lepers were small, looked totally beaten by life. I could see in their eyes hopelessness. It was not the attitude Rev. Smith tried to infuse in them.
The bright spot of the whole trip was visiting the school. The school children were no different than any kids. Full of energy and enthusiasm. The schools were equipped well enough and everyone exhibited a lot of spirit.
The Primary school was grades 1-5 in two rooms with two teachers. The Kindergarten was one room with one teacher. There were 32 primary students and 18 Kindergarten.
The whole village had only 65 adults. About half were the
leper patients and very old.
Vietnam claims to have no new leprosy patients. All the ones I saw here at Hoa Van were very old. Rev. Smith served the ones that no one would serve at that time. These people were usually banned to a hut in the jungle to die.
He and his wife Laura went to India to learn how to treat leprosy. He served these people and gave some comfort to the poorest of the poor.
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