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Published: November 11th 2009
Wishful thinking perhaps?!
Maybe one day Hien will have an electric bike just like this one.
Little Hien was only three and half years old when her grandparents dropped her off at a pagoda in Hoi An to live with the nuns. Hien comes from a very poor background and a family history of broken relationships.In August 2008 the decision was made to take her to the pagoda to be raised instead of remaining at home. Now at school age, and living in a pagoda that relies solely on donations, Hien needs your help for a chance of a future - an education.
Born in Vinh Dien, Vietnam, Hein was a financial burden for her very poor, 18 year old unwed mother, so she was given as a baby to her grandparents to raise. This is not an uncommon practice in Vietnam, but unusually, her maternal grandparents were divorced. So Hien spent time alternating between grandmother and grandfather.
After three and a half years of an unstable life with sporadic visits from her mother, Hien developed some problematic behaviour patterns. Her mother had married and had another baby by this time and did not want to look after Hien. Her grandmother deemed Hien “too naughty” and so the decision was made to give Hien
Hien stands in front of the Pagoda entrance where she has lived for the last 18 months.
When children are unable to be raised by their family in Vietnam they are usually taken to an orphanage. Hien was luckier than many others. I say this because Hien is being raised in a loving, safe atmosphere, she has a healthy diet and a devoted group of surrogate mothers. Despite the poverty and family difficulties, Hien’s grandmother wanted to give Hien a chance; the ability to break the family cycle to create a different and maybe hopeful life. So she took Hien to the Pagoda and left her with the head nun Nhu instead of taking her to the orphanage.
Nhu clearly remembers the day Hien was delivered to the Pagoda.
Nhu explained to me that Hien’s mother told Hien that she would take her to live at the Pagoda, and had also told her that she would come and visit her during the evenings. However her mother never did come to see her in the evenings and so poor little Hien, feeling alone and unloved, cried for two days.
Fortunately Hien has a vibrant and resilliant spirit. On the third day, she stopped crying.
The Pagoda is a place of worship where
seven Buddhist nuns live, dedicating their lives to serving their God and the community and now raising little Hien. Their day typically commences at 4:00am and involves a morning and evening prayer, meditation and chanting session, reading, learning and community work. The pagoda is unassisted by any Government funds. It relies wholly on donations from members of the public to do its valuable work in the community - feeding the poor. Lifestart Foundation educates four of the young nuns. They attend Lifestart Foundation Free School for extra classes and also attend Government School daily. Their school fees are paid by Lifestart Foundation.
Putting a child through school is expensive in Vietnam. The schooling system is different to what we know in the West. Prior to being accepted at a Government school for Grade 1, children must have completed two years of what Vietnam calls kindergarten. In fact it is more like two years of our Western Prep classes. Not only are these two years compulsory if Hien has a chance to go to school, but they are vital. It is during these two years that she will be taught to read and write.
Due to the big heart
A very happy little girl.
Hien seems to burst with love, happiness and energy.
and generosity of the nuns, Hien has already nearly completed her first year of kindergarten. However, it is going to be a tremendous struggle financially if Hien is to complete her second year.
Hien is a beautiful, constantly smiling, energetic, happy little girl; a little girl who now has seven devoted mothers! Her birth mother does visit her every now and then at the Pagoda. Traditionally, a visiting parent will bring a present for their child, however Hien’s mother is too poor to buy a gift so Nhu, the head nun, takes it upon her self to buy a gift on behalf of Hien’s mother so she can have a gift for her daughter when she comes to visit.
As we sat in the Pagoda talking to Nhu through a translator, Hien was a constant source of amusement and energy, running around, dancing and laughing, calling out her only English word “hello-ooo” to Western passers-by. She appears to have adjusted to her new life wonderfully, but it has not been easy. When she first attended kindergarten she was a “problem child”, biting and scratching the other children and not wanting anyone to be near her. To look
Hien with one of her Seven Mothers
Hien sits with little kitty friend and one of her seven mothers.
at her now you would not know this at all. She is a child full of smiles and cuddles.
This wonderfully bright little girl would benefit so much if she is able to complete her education. It would give her options. It would empower her with the chance to change her life. Hien is not bound to stay at the Pagoda. She will be able to make a decision about her life and how she wants to live it either as part of the Pagoda or not when she is older.
- Hien: Pagoda Baby blog words and photographs by guest blogger Fiona Jones.
Would you like to help Hien? It costs 450.000 VN Dong per month to send Hien to kindergarten and to provide her with daily milk. This is $30AU per month. To send Hien to kindergarten for her second and last year, Nhu needs $360AU.
If you are interested in sponsoring Hien for this year or in the future with her ongoing education costs, please contact Karen via this blog or email on firstname.lastname@example.org
Lots of Love from
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A newly invented game involving soft drink bottle lids keeps Hien amused for hours.
those who you think would be interested in Lifestart Foundations work.......its free!
Visit us at: LIFESTART FOUNDATION WORKSHOP
127 Phan Chu Trinh Street,
Hoi An, Vietnam.
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