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Published: October 23rd 2006
with Thuong and Hue
Lifestart Foundation would like to sincerely thank the Commanding Officer, Captain David Johnston, and crew of the HMAS NEWCASTLE ROYAL AUSTRALIAN NAVY for their volunteer work preceding the typhoon that recently hit Hoi An. Typhoon Xangsane was the worst to hit central Vietnam in the past 10 years. Unfortunately, it barely rated a mention in the Australian media.
I received an email from SBLT Alicia Cross a few weeks ago telling me that the HMAS NEWCASTLE would be in Darwin, Australia and then proceed to Danang, Vietnam. The Commanding Officer was kindly offering to transport goods to Vietnam for Lifestart Foundation.
I emailed back and explained that, being in Vietnam, it would not be possible for me to coordinate such a request; however, I asked if Lifestart could take a rain check on such a great offer. (Lifestart Foundation is always in desperate need to transport donated goods to Vietnam, especially some of the bigger, heavier items!) The Navy responded "ok," but said the crew would still be very interested in coming to Hoi An to volunteer for Lifestart!
During the next couple weeks, the Australian Embassy, the Defence Attache Captain John Griffith, Warrant Officer Vinay Greenwood, and
Sitting at table...
Karen, Defence Attache Captain John Griffith, Australian Embassy Translator Binh and Warrant Officer Vinay Greenwood.
their office in Hanoi worked to get the necessary red stamps on the correct pieces of paper to make it all possible.
I was not involved in this part (thank goodness...) but I can only imagine that this was probably a bit of a nightmare for those trying to coordinate everything!!!
I was then invited to a cocktail reception onboard the HMAS NEWCASTLE the night before the crew were coming to Hoi An to volunteer. Well... as any normal female would do, I went into an instant panic about "what will I wear ???!!!" despite the fact I work in a tourist town full of magnificent tailors who can whip something up in an hour. Getting dressed up for a formal occasion is a long way from where my head space is at when I am in Vietnam doing the work I do.
Anyway...needless to say, the cocktail reception was a wonderful experience. (And I did manage to get a dress and shoes made in a few hours!)
Someone asked me "was the food at the reception good?" To which I replied, "It was fantastic." I had a meat pie with tomato sauce!!! (Sorry to all
All dressed up
At the Cocktail Reception on board Julie Hewstone, Captain John Griffith, Karen, Hong and Nick Lee
you vegetarians out there!) You have to be an Australian to appreciate how good that was after weeks of rice and noodles...
That night, the navigator of the HMAS NEWCASTLE was kind enough to give me all the up-to-the-minute reports on the approaching typhoon, predicted to be the worst to hit central Vietnam in 10 years.
The next morning, the crew was bussed from Danang to Hoi An. The day was so wet and dreary, raining non-stop all morning. The terrible weather did not faze the crew, nor did it dampen their spirits. They joined up with the 60 or so Vietnamese we had on board to sandbag the peninsula. The children from the Lifestart Free School and the children from our Lifestart families also joined in to help. The rain soaked us to the bone, but we got lot of work done and filled many sandbags.
One of our Lifestart families lives on a tiny little boat, and it became necessary to move their boat out of the river onto dry land. So a group of big, strong Navy guys surrounded their home on the river, simply went “One, two, three, HEAVE,” and picked the boat
At the Cocktail Reception
up out of the water and carried it to dry land.
I was too stunned to take a photo, but the picture of this is imprinted in my memory. You will just have to imagine it also.
The night I left Hoi An to return to Australia, typhoon Xangsane hit the central coast of Vietnam.
True to reports, the storm was a very bad one, affecting most of our families in Hoi An one way or another. Some lost their homes, most have had their homes damaged, several of our boats sunk, families were left without rice and food (all washed away!). Our Lifestart Free School had the roof blown off and incurred water damaged from the ground up. Many areas lost electricity for more than a week. Trees were uprooted, and many of the streets of Hoi An became a mini river. Boat was the only mode of transportation.
Children at one badly affected orphanage were left with very little.
Several of the kids we have staying in dormitories lost the roof on their room and consequently were flooded out.
In other words—lots of problems!! Since returning to Australia, I have been on the
At the Cocktail Reception
telephone at least once, if not twice, a day to coordinate a relief effort for all who need help.
On the same night that the typhoon struck Hoi An, one of our 29-year-old mothers was hit by a motorbike while walking in the street. She died two days later from her injuries, leaving behind a husband and young son. I have been working with her family for the past three years. They were squatting in a one-room banana leaf shack complete with dirt floor. We have been desperately waiting for a cheap land grant for them, but it has been elusive to date. Her husband is a very hard worker who can turn his hand to anything, and I frequently employ him when Lifestart needs jobs done. I am at home in Australia with somewhat of a heavy heart at this present time, asking the usual question: ”Why?”
The Australian Embassy in Hanoi is taking up a collection for victims of the typhoon...
Thank you so much!
Some of you have already sent in a donation to help these people; my sincere thanks to you on their behalf.
If you would like to help the victims
of typhoon Xangsane, donations can be made online via the Lifestart Foundation website (www.lifestartfoundation.org.au) or via regular mail to
182 Buckley Street,
100% of your donated dollars will go directly to the families in need.
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