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November 21st 2006
Published: November 22nd 2006
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Little Thi Manh is three years old. Her sister Ly is 12 and in year 7 at school, and her other sister Thuy is nine years old and in year 5 at school.

Thi Manh has advanced hydrocephalus (water on the brain), brain damage, and malnutrition. She has had many stints in hospital and several surgeries that often resulted in infections and complications. Thi Manh's mother, who stays at home in order to be her full-time caregiver, is not able to care adequately for her with out intervention and help.

Thi Manh’s father has unstable work as a builder’s labourer. It is a big struggle for a casual, unskilled labourer to provide for a family of five, especially when one family member is so critically ill.

The family lives in a small house on the highway between Hoi An and Danang. The highway is due to be widened shortly - the family will lose the front of their property and possibly the front of their home, also.

Robyn, a friend of mine who I enlisted in helping with Ngoc (a previous blog story), is involved in helping Thi Manh's mother provide care. Robyn runs an organization that focuses on children with disabilities and is very involved in the supervision of Thi Manh's medical care.

I was introduced to this family to see if I could help ease their financial burden and to discuss some possible self sufficiency options with them. After talking with the family, it seemed that some kind of animal breeding set up would be a good option for them. I have started by providing the family with a quantity of chickens for them to breed. The eggs will supplement their diet, and hopefully they will breed enough chickens to sell and eat in the not-too-distant future.

I can only hope that there is not another outbreak of bird flu, in which case the chicken business will have not been a good idea.

Lifestart Foundation has provided each of Thi Manh's sisters with a bicycle. The girls attend different schools in opposite directions, so this will help them continue with their studies. A sponsor is paying for the girls’ complete education costs.

During my next trip, I will look at a subsequent step for this family, which will probably be pig breeding or purchasing a cow for them. It is hoped that all family members can help in the care of any animal.

This family faces so many challenges on every conceivable level. I hope that with a little help from Lifestart Foundation we can ease their burden a little, although nothing we do can possibly ease the pain of parents with such a sick little daughter.

It is my understanding that not much more can be done for Thi Manh other than to sustain her and keep her free of pain. I am told that early detection of and intervention with such a problem would have resulted in a much different prognosis, however, given the advanced stage of her problems, this sadly is not the case for little Thi Manh.

Love from Karen.
For more information on Lifestart Foundation please click on

P.S. To view Karen's previous stories click on previous journals on this page.

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