Our expedition is over - most of us are home now and going through some culture shock and of course dealing with jet lag. For such a huge group, we were an amazing team that worked hard with an exhausting schedule in just 8 short days. We want to thank all those that have followed our blogs, donated money, toys, stickers, hats, t-shirts and everything else. Your generosity is amazing and so much appreciated.
Here are our final numbers
over $53,000 raised and priceless in-kind donations
350 children & 40 chaperones went to camp (including transportation, lodging, meals & clothes) to see the ocean and have fun! (they traveled by bus up to 14 hours to get to camp!)
250 bikes given to every child in our scholarship program in 5 different towns
10 kg. of rice, 10 kg. of dried beans, 5 kg. of sugar, 1 box of instant noodles and some candy :) to 280 families (that's enough to feed a family of 4-6 people for a month!)
700+ "fun bags" given to school children in 5 different villages - the fun bags were 100% made with donations of toys, clothes, stickers and drawings (mostly from school children in the U.S.)
350 "fun bags" given to all the children that attended camp.
2 new houses started in Rach Gia (Kien Giang)
2 houses renovated in Tan Hoi Trung (Dong Thap)
1 new house started in Tan Hoi Trung
1 house renovated in My Hiep (Dong Thap)
1 new house started in My Hiep
2 houses renovated in Sa Dec (Dong Thap)
....all in 5 days
*we also funded the construction of 2 new houses (1 in My Hiep and 1 in Sa Dec)
for medical check ups, dental exams & fluoride treatments:
in Rach Gia (Kien Giang - day 1 - 82, day 2 - 275, day 3 - 182, total= 539
47% were treated for parasites, 100% of the patients work and live in the garbage dump
in Tan Hoi Trung (Dong Thap) day 4 - 277 total (192 under age 18, 2 needed follow up)
in My Hiep (Dong Thap) day 5 - 313 (203 under age 18, 5 needed follow up)
in Sa Dec (Dong Thap) day 6 - 231 and 7 kids at our orphanage
in Saigon - District 7 day 7 - 91 girls
...a grand total of 1458 patients in 7 days
with your continued support we are convinced that we are at a place where we can continue to develop plans for more preventinve health care, and sustainable health care.
$1600 in scholarships given to 21 winners from the "My Vietnam" Art Contest, 9 honorable mentions received special prizes
after flying thousands of miles to get to vietnam we then traveled:
120 miles via plane to Rach Gia (Kien Giang)
70 miles from Rach Gia to Cao Lanh (Dong Thap) by bus and two ferries - 6 hours
10 miles from Cao Lanh to Tan Hoi Trung (Dong Thap) by bus and tuk tuk - 1 hour
15 miles from Cao Lanh to My Hiep (Dong Thap) by bus - 45 minutes
25 miles from Cao Lanh to Sa Dec (Dong Thap) by bus and one ferry - 1 hour
85 miles from Sa Dec to Saigon/HCMC by bus - 4 hours
15 miles from edge of Saigon to our hotel by bus - 1 hour
75 miles from Saigon to Long Hai (for camp) by bus - 3 hours
80 miles from Long Hai back to Saigon by bus - 3 1/2 hours
*our bike team traveled 100 miles from Cao Lanh to Saigon in 12 hours and survived!
30 prints from the winning entries of the Little Red Fairy "My Vietnam" Art Contest auctioned off during our last day for a total of $6,670 to fund a boys scholarship program starting this fall...
We're already looking forward to the next expedition (i think!)...thanks again for all your support! More pictures will be posted soon!
THANK YOU for being the Catalyst for positive change for the children of Vietnam!
Our 2008 best of show is this one...Our 16 year old winner received a scholarship prize of 3,000,000 VND ($200) and the first thing she did was tell me that half would go to her teacher who taught her how to read 2 years ago and the other half she wanted to send her sister to school.
The rest of the show was filled with talent from all the groups - dancing, fashion show, skits - even our team got into it! We laughed, danced and had a really great time. It was a wonderful end to our work week and the kids were bouncing off the walls by the time they got to the huge campfire on the beach. It will be an early start for our girls in the morning - they would all leave by 5:00 a.m. to get back home. We never "officially" said good bye to them but we knew we would see them again soon!
Three of our five group of children has been to camp before - the Little Rose Girls, and the children from My Hiep and Tan Hoi Trung villages (of Dong Thap). They were definitely excited to return. The other children had NEVER been on such a long bus ride let alone away from home before. Our girls and their brothers from Kien Giang's garbage dump had some really amazing "aha!" moments....a shower, flushable toilet, a real bed, and unlimited food during meal times.
After dinner on Saturday night we went upstairs to greet them all again - we were now familiar faces so we had many say "hello!", wave and even run up to us with a hug. We gave them their "fun bags" - a bag full of drawings, stickers, new clothes, toiletries, toys and even some candy. As soon as we handed them out the kids were starting to trade. Well went to bed early to get up early for a day on the beach.
The next day for the start of camp - our team had 10 activity stations - arts & crafts, poloaroid pictures, friendship bracelets, drawings, jenga, twister, volleyball, soccer, relay races, sand castle building....all fun stuff! The kids came to us in groups of 20 and would stay in each station for about 20 minutes and then switch. It worked great and was very organized ...for about an hour! and then the kids got tired and wanted to stay longer, do more stuff, etc....and it went back to being what camp was all about - running around and doing the stuff you wanted to or just kicking back in under the cabana.
By 10:30 a.m. the kids wanted lunch and many of the kids - especially the kids that never have been in a hotel before just wanted to go back to their rooms and take another shower! One of the Kien Giang girls was convinced that the best part of camp was that we gave her a room with a shower and she could take one whenever she wanted to!
After the early lunch we took a huge group picture - which will have to be pasted together because we are one huge group - over 400 strong! and then we had a "controlled" swin time....there were jelly fish to avoid...it was really a lot of fun until about 2:00 and then the we all went back to our hotel to rest and shower up. For our team it meant jumping in the pool for a good hour! Stay tuned for a posting of our "synchronized swimming" show from our boys and men!
kids, of the over 1100 we've seen, but were happy to see that a new bike would help them get to school faster. It was all done in just a few hours and we celebrated by having pizza delivered from Chez Guido! Hard to believe, but it was quite good! We were all back on the bus by 1:00 and went another 3 hours to Long Hai Province - to get ready for camp. Overall we are all completely exhausted and emotionally and physically - but we're all getting excited to be on the beach with all of our kids to just have some fun!
to Saigon, the rest of us finished our day in Dong Thap Province in
the town of Sa Dec. It was another hot day (but we won't complain:)).
The medical team saw an additional 300 people today - that's over 1100
patients in just a few short days. They go in to a site and turn it
over to a "clinic" quite quick and then start moving the hundreds of
people through their stations. We had one short moment of panic when
our lead doctor (Jenn) got lost going to the site on a "xe
om" (scooter taxi), but she was never worried after all we're a pretty
big group that stand out everywhere we go. Our team of doctors also
stopped in at one of our orphanages and checked on a few children
ranging from 10 months to 15 years old.
The home team on their last work day did 2 home renovations - putting
up some tin sheeting for a roof and thatched or wooden planks for
walls. Their team was a bit smaller for the day but they worked well
and was relieved when they realized that they had finished the work
week without major injuries!
At the distribution site it was our craziest day - when the team
arrived they were mobbed by hundreds of kids so curious to find out
why we were there. There was no sense of personal space and all the
"catalyst kids" were overwhelmed. Once we got it under control we had
about 200 waiting to play while another 500 looking on. The fun thing
we added today was a birthday party - one of the catalyst staff was
surprised with a 3 tier cake, song and presents - we served cake to
300 in about 20 minutes - it didn't matter if they had a plate or not!
We were done giving out food and bikes to 30 of our scholarship
program children by noon and got on the bus to go to Saigon.
All of us would make it to Saigon at various times during the evening.
We checked into our nicest hotel of the week for a quick "nap" before
leaving the next morning early for our last work day.
March 23 2008
After lunch instead of going to the school and help with the "donation sort", the home team found out they had to go to the home sites. We didn’t know where we were going or what we were going to be doing. Thirteen of the twenty one of us stayed at the first house and built a foundation for the house to be. The other eight of us went to another house that is being built on the river side for a mother and five children. It was a house in a really skinny alley. I never expected so many house in such a little space. The first thing that I did was break tiles that were in the ground into smaller pieces so I could use them to help level out the place where the cement slabs are going. That’s what four out of the eight were doing while I did that. After smashing tile into smaller pieces I had to hall buckets of sand to level out the ground. Once I got the ground all leveled me and alex and to move five concrete pieces three feet by three feet out of the way so we could level out the back of the house.
After moving all of the pieces we found that the ground was still unlevel so we had to hall some more sand to make it level. We were finally done with all the house stuff we could do for the day. So we went and look to see what the other four were doing. They were still working on the slabs that were going to be put on the level ground that me and alex just did. We helped with that for a little bit. Todays high was really hot it felt like it was over 120 degrees.
March 24 2008
Today we started to build a house for a mom and five children. When we first got to the site their was a ground and cement pillars sticking out of the ground. We found out what we were going to do we had to break the tiles that were in the ground into smaller pieces and spread them to make the ground even, after breaking the tiles and making it as even as we could we decided to haul in sand and try to level it out some more. Once we leveled the ground out we had lunch at 12 and ate till 1. Lunch was done at when we came back to the house we found out to make mortar so we can start laying brick for the walls and haul them all to the place where the walls were going to placed. This house was across a river and down into an alley where there was a whole lot of houses made of aluminum, brick, and a whole lot of things you would imagine. Also the back of the house was above the river by like three feet. We learned how to lay brick and once we did that we went off on laying bricks and we did that for about six hours until it was time to leave for dinner.
March 25 2008
Today we went to the same places and did some more work on that same house. Once we got there we found out that we would have to make a ceiling made out of tin and rafters that were going to be put on the cement pillars that were made the day before. We also would have to lay more brick on the second and third wall. Also we would have to move three by seven feet of cement slabs that we were carrying to the part of the house that was over the river. The first thing that we did that morning was had two to three people switch in and out on laying brick. While the second part of the crew was putting together the tin ceiling for the top of the cement pillars. The wall building crew probably got three fourths of the way done on one wall and a fourth of the way done on the other wall before lunch. After lunch the people that were laying bricks went back to laying bricks and we went to put the ceiling on the house. So all three of us and two more people that were helping us build the house helped us move the cement slabs to the back of the house. It was time to go and we were really sad to leave the surroundings and how we did not get as far as we planned on getting. Thankfully at the end we got to get a picture in the house that we did all the work on with the family that will be living in the house. So that made my day.
March 26 2008
Today we split into three smaller groups, and two of the three groups were going to be doing house renovations on two different houses and the third group was going to be laying more brick. The group that I was on going to do renovations because we were sick of laying brick. We got to the site and looked at our surroundings we were out in the middle of nowhere any shad at all and there were four standing walls. We found out our renovations were going to be putting wood up on three of the four walls. On the fourth wall there was going to be aluminum. We had a power saw for half of the day. So we had to use a hand saw for four more hours. We got done with the house around 2:30.After that we found out we were going to be going to the first house where they were laying brick because the second renovation team only had to put one more wood piece and they were done. There were twenty-three people at the first site and only seven trowels for twenty-three people. So both renovations teams got to go back to the hotel and rest, while the first crew finished up as much as they could.
March 27, 2008
Today we divided our groups up into three groups again the same as yesterday. One brick laying crew and two renovations crews. The second renovation crew got to their site and noticed that the house that they got to was all weird and didn’t have enough done to do the work they were told they were going to be doing. So they decided they would go and help out the brick laying crew lay brick. The first renovation crew had gotten to their site and found out they again had to put up stuff on the walls of the building. One of the four walls we were putting up aluminum on a wall. The other two walls we were putting up corn leaves on the wall that were dried up and flipped out. The last wall we had to put up chain-linked fence on the upper ¾ of the wall and on the other ¼ of the wall we put aluminum. We finished the house around 11:45 and ate lunch. After lunch we had to go back again and help the brick laying crew. Yes the same as day four not enough trowels for twenty-four people. So the renovation crews got to go home and relax while they finished it up.
March 28 2008
Today was our last day working (for our team) we went to breakfast at 6 and left the hotel around 7:30 to head out to our work sites. But before we could leave we had to load the bus for the entire luggage from everybody. We were only going to two sites today and it was pretty easy work. We just had to put tin up on the side of the house instead of brick or wood for both houses. We were done with both the houses by twelve. So we went out to lunch before we had a two hour bus ride to dinner with 16 people on a coach bus and a lot of luggage. After eating dinner it took us two and a half hours even though it was only thirty miles. That’s how busy the roads are here in Vietnam.
March 29 2008
Today was a really really easy day we had the day off. A lot of us went shopping and went to look around Saigon. We got up for breakfast at 6:30 and said goodbye to the distribution and medical team because they had to work today. Our bus didn’t leave till 8:30 to go see the markets and a lot of other things. And then our bus left for beach at 1:00 it was a two and a half hour bus ride. We got to the beach/hotel around 4:00 and checked in and got our room assignments. Most of the home and distribution team went swimming before they had to get ready for the bus that was leaving at 5:15 for dinner.
So we’re officially done with distribution of food today (3/29). The basic layout of the days we had were playing with the kids in the morning, with arts and crafts, soccer and some other games like duck duck goose, red-light green-light etc., and in the afternoon distribution of the food and bikes. At the beginning we had trouble explaining the games to the Vietnamese students, especially since many of our Vietnamese-English translators didn’t know the games either. But as the week went on, things became much easier. With the arts and crafts, both the American and Vietnamese kids loved drawing with crayons and stickers, and when they were finished, we collected the Vietnamese drawings to give back to students in the U.S., who’s drawings were put in the goody bags. The soccer games went great, and everyone understood, especially since most of the children from both groups already knew how to play. All together, during "animation" (i.e. recreation time), we played with 1900 different students, but didn’t give food and bikes to all of those kids. Bikes and foods were given to all the students in our scholarship program which was almost 275.
After a daily snack of Girl Scout cookies and a box lunch of chicken, spinach and rice, all of the American kids were assembled in different stations for the five different kinds of beans, peanuts, rice and noodles. The Vietnamese kids receiving the food would take a plastic bag, and the American kids would put the different bags of beans, rice and peanuts into their bag. Then, the Vietnamese children would put their bags onto their bikes, along with 10 kg’s of rice and a box of noodles, candy, a goody bag, and in some locations a hat. This was a great experience for everyone; for the American kids, to see how much enjoyment the Vietnamese kids get out of the food and candy. With the Vietnamese kids, they were very excited to get all the food, and especially the bikes. The most kids we gave food and bikes to in one location was 100 in Saigon, but in most places, the average was around 40.
Once the distribution was over, the whole group of 23 kids and 10 adults (including the 2 teenagers), and the tourist agency staff and translators would go back to the hotel and rest. If there was extra time after that, we would go to a park, where the kids would play soccer, blow up balloons, play Frisbee etc.
Overall, it was a good experience for everyone, and although it was a lot of work, everyone had a great time, and an experience that they would remember for a long time.