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Published: November 16th 2006
Loads of Luggage
Karen departing Melbourne airport
Dear little Ngoc ( pronounced Nop ) has cerebral palsy. Life for Ngoc and her family is not easy, despite this I would consider Ngoc to be one of the luckier children living with severe disabilities in Vietnam. Ngoc has a devoted family that loves her to pieces, and with the help of Lifestart Foundation, the family’s problems are lessened a little.
Ngoc’s family was the first family Lifestart Foundation sponsored. I call them our
“Christmas Eve Family.” Those of you who don’t know the beginning of the Lifestart Foundation story can have a look at our website, www.lifestartfoundation.org.au, and click on the Adopt A Family page, which depicts Ngoc’s family history and story in full.
In brief, my group of family and friends support Ngoc’s family each year. In lieu of giving gifts to each other at Christmastime, we all contribute the money usually spent on gifts for each other to Ngoc’s family. Over the years we have helped the family build a new home, which provides them with security for the rest of their lives.
Ngoc's brother Khanh is quite a delightful young boy who adores his little sister. Perhaps like many others who have a
sibling with disabilities, Khanh and Ngoc share a very special and unique bond. Lifestart fully supports Khanh’s education costs in terms of school fees, books, uniform, and extra tuition for Physics, Chemistry, and Mathematics. Ngoc’s mother Chau is at home as her full-time carer, and Vo, her father, is a hard-working builders’ labourer.
The financial strain of having one less working parent can put a huge strain on an often already struggling family. It is not uncommon for children with severe disabilities (and also not so severe) to be abandoned.
This trip saw me travel to Vietnam with over 300 kilos of donated goods for our Lifestart Foundation families. Next time you are at the airport having a little grumble about the security measures one has to go through these days, spare a thought for me with the countless bags I have to get through every airport security check point—and then again at the carousel at the end of each leg of the trip!
I really do get some funny looks with the amount of baggage I have, but I can assure you that it is worth every bit of time and energy when the goods make
it to their final destination. In this case, it was Ngoc’s very first wheelchair that made the long journey from Australia to her home in central Vietnam.
The Rider Cheshire Foundation and Rotary very kindly donated Ngoc’s wheelchair. Thank you to Mr Bill Dagg, Tony Birkett, and Peter Newton for making this possible. Until now, Ngoc has spent her days lying on the ground or being held. Ngoc cannot walk, sit, or talk, but she understands a lot! And she always has a ready smile.
I enlisted a friend, Robyn, who has much more experience than I with children with disabilities, to help Ngoc begin using her new wheelchair. It was important that Ngoc’s first introduction to her "new chair " was a positive experience and not a frightening one.
Robyn was marvelous in how she gently introduced Ngoc to her wheelchair a few minutes at a time, and step by step, we managed to get her harnessed in and ready for her first expedition outside. Ngoc’s brother Khanh took control of taking his little sister for her first trip. All went well and Ngoc actually seemed to enjoy herself.
I brought Ngoc a small carousel that plays
music, and this provided a great distraction whilst we tried to adjust the chair and harness for her.
For those of you who have been following Ngoc’s story, her assessment for possible surgery has still not gone ahead. Ngoc’s mother would like me to attend the assessments with her and Ngoc. Unfortunately, the surgeon and I have not been able to co ordinate our times. Either he is in Vietnam when I am not, or visa-versa. I remain optimistic in being able to get this assessment done sooner than later, though.
In the meantime, Ngoc is beautifully cared for and loved a lot—much more than I can say for many others I have met with similar problems.
Lots of love from Karen.
For more information about Lifestart Foundation
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