The Night Before Christmas

Whether it was fruit or nappies, it took only a few dollars of my money to make such significant contributions. I wondered if any of my friends in Europe would want to buy oranges for a day for these beautiful children. I know often people want to help those less fortunate than them, but do not know how to and fear any contribution will be lost in an ocean of need. This was a little different, it was personal, I was offering the opportunity to help children and babies they already knew from my photographs, any money would come directly to me, someone they knew and trusted. I thought that if I could raise a hundred or two hundred dollars, I could buy fruit and nappies for the Orphanage for months, this would ease their little lives for a while. So, on Christmas Eve, I sent a Christmas message from balmy Vietnam to snowy Europe, sending photographs of myself and the children, wishing love, health and happiness to everyone for the upcoming year, then adding a little note about my hopes for fundraising…..

Tam Ky Baby Orphanage is home to orphaned, abused and abandoned children, with ages from five weeks to six years old. The children are affectionate and beautiful, their resilience and will to survive is breathtaking. The conditions in the baby orphanage are desperate and the children live in real poverty. Two of the children don’t even have names. They are referred to as “the littlest baby” and “the little boy who cries”.  Most of the children don’t cry, they know they will not be heard. We as volunteers try to listen to the children, and to provide as much love and care as we can, but mostly the children have to take care of each other and themselves. They are sick and malnourished due to the conditions they live in, but are so grateful for a hug, fruit or simple toys. They are a joy to work with and their strength and good natures, in spite of the poverty they live in, are an inspiration to those of us priviledged enough to know them.

For our children, we would like to raise funds for simple nutrition, fruit, milk and basic child care supplies. It costs very little to make a real difference to these children, it costs only 82 uk pence/ 1.20 US dollars/ 0.92 euros/ 1.80 australian dollars to provide fruit every day for a child for a month and to make a real difference. We also desperately need money for nappies, baby food and simple baby medical supplies. Any money you give will be spent directly and locally as you request on your children at the Tam Ky baby orphanage. We ask only for a donation, once or as often as you like! You can follow the progress of your children through blogs and photo journals of the volunteers at the orphanages. If you decide to make a donation, your money will come directly to us and we will ensure it is spent directly on the children on the things they most desperately need. Thank you so much for helping us to help these beautiful children!

Many of the people reading this message knew a little of my experience over the months leading to my time in Vietnam. Many had been taken aback to see photographs of a healthy, happy, although slim girl, with these exotic orphaned children filtering through from the other side of the globe. Many had not been in contact with me for some months, fading out of my life, this was their first news of me in some time. As I watched the donations flood in, I saw Christmas spirit, I saw love and I saw guilt. I had hoped for one, maybe two hundred dollars. The first donation came within seconds, fifty dollars. The second, third fourth within minutes, more fifties, some hundreds. Knowing what this meant for our babies and children, I shouted for the other volunteers to come watch with me. Before midnight, on the night before Christmas, my young friends in snowy lands had sent me almost a thousand dollars. I was touched beyond words. “That’s incredible Lucie, well done” whispered one of the most experienced volunteers. Hands on my face I turned to her and whispered under the laughter and excited shouts of the other volunteers, “Its guilt, I haven’t heard a word from some of these people in months.” She smiled and in her Irish lullaby voice said to me, “Take it, maybe its an apology, maybe its guilt, who cares. We can change worlds with this money”. A half hour before midnight we were ten dollars short of a thousand dollars. I sent another message, saying I was touched and that the kindness extended to these abandoned babies would change their lives, I would make sure of that. I said I was not going to bed till we got to two thousand dollars and was off to find my purse. Before I could, a message came back. “You can go to bed now, Mademoiselle Lucie”. Two hundred dollars accompanied this beautiful Lullaby.

In the days that followed, we received over four thousand dollars. As this money arrived, Sofia wondered if she could do something similar. My project had been simple to implement, just a heartfelt few words and some personal photographs. Sofia had plenty of these, but she wanted a theme. My own had come from a humble place inside myself, of love, empathy and gratitude, translated fruit, nappies and basic suppies. She began to wonder what hers could be, what her deepest feelings could become. Sofia had long, luscious hair that whilst living in France she had styled into dreadlocks, she had planned to shave all this off before leaving Vietnam, this being the only way to restart natural hair growth. I was pretty stunned by the idea and made more than one attempt to dissuade her, but she explained to me that she had always been known, even to strangers, as the girl with the hair. “I am not my hair”, she told me. Indeed this spectacular girl was not. So she came up with the idea of being sponsored to shave her head to raise money for scabies and lice treatments, which reached far from just medication but to hygiene and new blankets, clothes, towels, all the things that were making the infections so difficult to get rid off. She launched her project, declaring she was losing her hair to save theirs, planning to have her hair cut with the children next time the hairdresser visited to crop their pretty soft syles. The money poured in, in it hundreds and thousands, this time from Mexico and France. She raised ten thousand dollars.


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