Season of Giving

December is upon us, and Vietnam Friendship Village Project USA is but one of many charitable organizations scrambling to make the most of the holiday gifting season. In that vein, you may look forward to more blog posts on this website in the coming weeks, with updates and special appeals from the Friendship Village. (You may even be treated to an email message, if you are on our list… If, however, you feel inundated by email appeals, perhaps you will be moved to reward VFVP-USA for our extremely infrequent use of that medium!)

Rhizophora film imageToday, to kick off our end-of-year support campaign on behalf of Friendship Village, we share with you a very special short film featuring the unique “voices” of 11 Friendship Village residents. Designed to raise awareness about the ongoing consequences of Agent Orange, this mesmerizing movie manages to touch on intersecting global issues of disability / war / environment. The film, titled Rhizophora, is a project of Julia Metzger-Traber, a US American/German choreographer and performance artist based in Berlin, and her partner, Italian choreographer Davide De Lillis, a teaching/directing/performing duo working under the name ¿Che.Ne.So?.

PLEASE NOTE: This is a “sneak preview” for VFVP-USA supporters, not to be shared publicly, as Julia and Davide are in the process of submitting Rhizophora to various film festivals before releasing it to the general public. They will also be making a few minor edits to this almost-final draft.

Click here to watch Rhizophora on Vimeo. The password is: Friendship

 

The Agent Orange Legacy in Vietnam

One of the unique aspects of the Vietnam Friendship Village is the two-way street of learning and growth that happens there. The Vietnamese residents, some now young adults, are enriched by interactions with volunteers from different countries and cultural backgrounds, and vice versa. It is not uncommon for U.S. citizens who travel to Vietnam to develop a deeper interest in the history of the American war there, and to awaken to a sense of responsibility for the damages that remain. Anna Tadio is one such traveler. She is an American high school student who experienced Vietnam, and the Friendship Village, on a trip with an organization called Adventures Cross Country. —Ed.

by Anna Tadio

Crossing the border into Vietnam, the first thing one notices are the overwhelmingly friendly people. From offers of help to the train station, to recommendations of where to eat a cheap authentic meal, I never once have felt the anti-American animosity that I am sure I would feel if my people were subjected to the brutalities that took place during the Vietnam War (or as they call it here the American War). Although the war officially lasted for 19 years, the most destructive attempt at preventing communism was the United States’ use of the toxic defoliant Agent Orange that is still permeating the environment today. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy authorized the beginning of Operation Ranch Hand, the U.S. Air Force code name for the use of this toxic herbicide.

Manufactured by Monsanto and Dow Chemical, Agent Orange was sprayed for 9 years. Over 20,000,000 gallons of chemical herbicides and defoliants were used to deprive the North Vietnamese of hiding spaces and food supplies. The concentrations of this chemical were hundreds of times greater than considered safe by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. U.S. helicopters and planes sprayed the countryside at 13 times what was recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. More than 20 percent of Vietnam’s forests were sprayed, including endangered mangrove forests. 4.8 million Vietnamese were exposed to Agent Orange and about 3 million people are now victims, including second- and third-generation offspring of those originally exposed. Hundreds of thousands have died and hundreds of thousands of others are struggling with major disabilities including children who are born each year with deformities. The Vietnamese victims have no way to pay for medical treatment or care for their severely disabled children while they try to earn a living.

For ten days I have had the unique opportunity to spend time volunteering at Friendship Village in the suburbs of Hanoi in northern Vietnam. This sanctuary for victims of Agent Orange was founded by a man named George Mizo, a U.S. war veteran who, while experiencing the horrors of the Vietnam War, became a peace activist and widely spoke out against the war in Vietnam. After suffering from a series of health problems, his doctors attributed his sickness to his exposure to Agent Orange. As a way to make amends with the people he spent so many years killing, and as a way to help those that the U.S. government still has not, he helped create a place for both young children and Vietnam war veterans to live, play, and receive medical care, emotional support and vocational training so that they may lead a somewhat normal life when they leave their safe haven. Children and veterans stay for different time periods, and they are not required to pay a dime. The village currently receives more than half of its funding from the Vietnamese government and receives another large chunk from international donors including the United States, Japan, France, Canada, England and Germany.

When I walked into the village, I observed a pleasant environment with light yellow buildings surrounding a huge park with a playground in the middle and a pond that at one time was the home of fish that the residents grew for another protein source. It felt peaceful. The relief I felt at seeing such a well-maintained establishment was washed away when the first resident came out to say hello. Luian, one of the residents, is half as tall as a full-grown Vietnamese woman, and her face tells a story of serious birth defects and emotionally stunted growth. She appears to be 14 and in reality is 29. She had a huge smile on her face and gave each of us American students a huge hug and grabbed someone’s hands. Other residents poured out of their classrooms to say hello, all smiling broadly. Some had clear disabilities and deformities while others seemed to be functioning quite well until I realized that one girl was deaf and others I had first thought were younger, were ten years older than my prediction. It was powerful to see how despite of all the difficulties they face on a daily basis, the kids we met seemed happy and were excited to welcome newcomers and volunteers to their little safe haven. The challenges these residents face include cleft palates, mental disabilities, deafness, hernias, extra fingers and toes, throat cancer, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, prostate cancer, colon cancer, soft tissue sarcoma, lung cancer and liver cancer. I couldn’t help but wonder what their life is like when they are not playing in the wide-open spaces of Friendship Village.

I spent the week gardening on site, and doing research on Agent Orange to spread information to people around the world who do not know about this issue. While my impact was small, it made a difference in my life to see the openness and forgiveness exhibited by these innocent children who had no part of a “communist revolution” but are experiencing the consequences of the U.S. government’s actions over fifty years later. For people interested in visiting Vietnam, Friendship Village is a place of reconciliation and a place to give back to the people we harmed so many years ago, and who are still feeling the consequences of our actions today.

 

 

Villager Snapshot: Mai Ngô

by Paul Wicker, VFVP-USA board member

Mai Ngô had been at the Friendship Village for the past two years. She was born in 1993, and she is from Lạng Giang district in Bắc Giang Province 36 miles northeast of Hanoi. She has worked in the tailoring shop at the village, where she learned to make clothes.

She is known in the village for her singing ability and happy disposition. Whenever there is an event that provides an opportunity for a song, Mai is always involved and frequently is a soloist.

Mai is the kind of person who has ambitions. She said on her Facebook page, “Push my limit. Why not? It is time to see what I can do!”

With that in mind, Mai recently left the Village to work in the sewing room for LSHELL Designs in Hanoi. LSHELL Designs is affiliated with the Donkey Bakery, a company that employs people with disabilities. Her goal is to support herself in an independent living environment and to save money so she can study fashion design in the future.

We wish her well in her new endeavor.

Party Time at the Village

by Paul Wicker

This was my third trip to Vietnam Friendship Village to attend the biennial international planning meeting. It has become a bit of a routine process. You see old friends — members of the international committee, Village residents and staff. There are two days of formal meetings that produce the next two-year plan.

Things were pretty normal up to that point, but then came a surprise party. It was hosted by some of the Village residents and foreign volunteers. This was, without exception, the best party I had ever experienced in Vietnam. The menu consisted of Lê Văn Đô’s mystery punch, dumplings wrapped in leaves (Bánh bt lc) made from a recipe supplied by Hóa Bùi and Hang, and — the pièce de résistance — crepes coated with sugar and honey, preparation of the latter supervised by French volunteer Julie Duvert. I believe that I hold the record for the number of crepes consumed due to the efforts of Nguyễn Long who made sure that my plate was never empty. We all had a great time, sharing food, singing and communicating through language as well as non-verbal means.

VFVPartytablePaul Wicker, front center: “Now this is what I call a Happy Meal!”
[Photo: Auguste using Alain Bonnet’s camera]

The Vietnamese are always asking you to sing your favorite songs, so after the delicious meal, it came time for the “Voice“ competition. German Committee members Rosemarie Höhn-Mizo and Brigitte Mueller kicked it off by singing “Auf einem Baum ein Kuckuck” and “Die Gedanken sind frei,” both songs with a special meaning. The first one is like a children’s song, but one can also see the cuckoo as a symbol of freedom and the huntsman as a symbol of oppression. Japanese partner Shige Ahara sang “Smile” and the international duo of Shige Ahara and Auguste Bechler sang “What a Wonderful World.” Auguste Bechler, Alain Bonnet and Julie Duvert formed a French trio to sing “Aux Champs Elysées.” The Vietnamese villagers sang “Trái Đất Này Là Của Chúng Mình” (“This World is Ours”) and Mai Ngô sang an American pop song (from the Disney film Frozen, if I’m not mistaken).

Then it was crunch time for the Americans. Don Blackburn claimed that due to fatigue he couldn’t remember the words to any song unless there was a Karaoke machine. It was going to be up to me to uphold our national honor in the sing-a-thon. I racked my brain for several minutes and the only thing that popped into my head was, “Home on the Range.” I remembered the first stanza, but the next hurdle was difficult for everyone: I can’t sing. It was pretty embarrassing, but thankfully the crowd was in a forgiving mood.

VFVPartyFriendship Village “Kids” (many of them now adults) mix it up
with international supporters and foreign volunteers
[Photo: Maria Mulvihill using Alain Bonnet’s camera]

After the evening was over, the members of the international committee realized that we had learned an important lesson from the party. We have always referred to the young residents as “kids” or “children.” The residents hosting the party are now young adults and it is time to make some changes that reflect that reality and take advantage of their skills and capabilities.

A big thanks to Long Cảnh and Julie Duvert for organizing this splendid gathering.


 COMING HOME

by Paul Wicker

I have returned to my home in Van Canh Viet Nam
To the place called Viet Nam Friendship Village
This is where my family is
These are my brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, grandchildren
Home is where you are loved and love in return
We are all the same people
No matter the language, culture or appearance
I have known this since I first came to Viet Nam Friendship Village
I have arrived
I am home

Thanks for Spreading the Word

Just a quick post to say how much we appreciate all the volunteers, visitors, poets and filmmakers, journalists and photographers who help spread the word about the Van Canh Friendship Village, and about the larger issue of the long-term effects of Agent Orange/dioxin in Viet Nam.

Click to read Kimberly's article at mainichi.jp

Click to read Kimberly’s article at mainichi.jp

Often we receive email messages from supporters sharing links to online articles or blog posts we wouldn’t otherwise know about. Sometimes we hear from authors directly, or secondhand through one of our partner committee members in Germany, Japan, France, Canada or Viet Nam. We have begun listing links to people’s online blogs and articles on our sidebar.

Yesterday, I received snail mail from Kimberly Hughes, staff writer with the Mainichi newspaper in Japan. She enclosed this note (see pic) with a printout of the article she wrote about the Friendship Village, published on March 1, 2014. The piece, Vietnam Friendship Village offers healing, hope to those impacted by war’s ongoing legacy, is a very well written introduction to our project.

Thank you, Kimberly!

VFP Hòa Bình Chapter 160: We appreciate you!

Vietnam Friendship Village has always found strong support within the ranks of Veterans For Peace, a global organization of military veterans and allies working to build a culture of peace, expose the true causes and enormous costs of wars, and heal the wounds of war while working to end all wars.

Several years ago, a number of US veteran ex-pats living and working in Viet Nam got together and formed a Veterans For Peace chapter in Viet Nam. It’s known as Chapter 160, the Hòa Bình Chapter (Hòa Bình means peace in Vietnamese). VFVP-USA Board Member Don Blackburn was one of the founding members, along with Suel Jones and Michael Cull, who were both involved with the Friendship Village early on. (Suel now splits his time between Danang and Albuquerque, New Mexico, while Michael and Don both live in Nha Trang.) Other recognized leaders within the chapter are “the two Chucks”—Chuck Palazzo and Chuck Searcy. Palazzo’s home base is Danang, and Searcy’s is Hanoi, although Searcy also spends a lot of time in Quang Tri Province supporting the work of Project RENEW.

Among other things, VFP Chapter 160 members provide assistance to Vietnamese people still affected by remnants of the American War in Viet Nam, such as the landmines and unexploded ordnance that continue to cause injury and death, and the dioxin that remains in certain “hot spots” in the environment as well as in the gene pool of those originally exposed.

To raise awareness about these issues as well as some money to help victims and their families (funds are often distributed through VAVA, Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin), VFP Chapter 160 began conducting an annual springtime tour of Viet Nam, geared toward peace-oriented veterans and associates. Now in its third year, their tour has been a big success. A stop at the Vietnam Friendship Village is on the Hanoi itinerary, and it is one of the projects benefiting from the tour, as participants help decide how to direct tour monies among many deserving charities at the end of their trip.

One of this year’s tour participants happened to mention the Hòa Bình Chapter’s good work to filmmaker Michael Moore, and Moore subsequently named Chapter 160 as one of two recipients of memorial donations for his father, specifically to help victims of Agent Orange in Vietnam. This news—not of Mr. Moore’s passing (may he rest in peace), but that both the issue Agent Orange and VFP Chapter 160 had been highlighted in this simple way—caused a ripple of gratitude among those of us in the peace community who have been working on this issue for a long time. Hopefully, as a result, our circle will grow just a little bit wider.

2014 Viet Nam Tour group members led by VFP Chapter 160 poses in front of Ushi's, a world famous restaurant (and personality) located in Hue, Viet Nam.

Members of VFP Chapter 160 pose with 2014 tour group members and friends in front of Ushi’s, a world famous restaurant (and personality) located in Hue, Viet Nam.

Supporter Spotlight: Carol Konyha

toby_pics

Sgt. Tony Konyha in Vietnam—in uniform on one of the bases he served at (left), and during a moment of relaxation (right).

Carol Konyha’s father, Toby Konyha, was stationed in Vietnam for a year between August 1967 and August 1968, serving as a mess sergeant at both An Khe and Pleiku military bases east of the Cambodian-Vietnam highlands. This was a heavily forested region. Even in the lower coastal areas, in the tropical climate, dense vegetation provided ample cover for the North Vietnamese Army, who were staging attacks from neighboring Cambodia at the time. US military commanders’ institution of “Operation Ranch Hand,” the infamous aerial spraying of Agent Orange and other defoliants in Vietnam, helped eliminate enemy cover and thereby reduce the threat to its combatant forces. [To see an interactive map of spraying missions, visit: Chicago Tribune Watchdog.]

The widespread chemical warfare had devastating side effects, not only for Vietnam’s environment, but for many of the humans caught in the drift. Dioxin, a highly toxic byproduct of the Agent Orange formula, caused permanent health problems, even death, to both military and civilian personnel on both sides of the conflict, including genetic mutations that resulted in children being born with severe birth defects such as spinal bifida and other neurological disorders. Sgt. Toby Konyha was one of those whose exposure to the herbicidal “agent” eventually took a heavy toll on his health and on his family.

In 1973, just five years after his stint in Vietnam, and the same year American troops pulled out of the country, Sgt. Toby Konyha died after being diagnosed with leukemia. At the time of his death, he and his wife Mary had seven children: Dorothy, age 22; Jim, 20; Suzanne, 17; Carol, 8; Ed, 6, Christine, 4; and Dan, 2. In addition to his own illness, Toby’s exposure to Agent Orange led to his youngest daughter Christine being born with a malformed spine and water on the brain, as well as an abnormality that required her to undergo open-heart surgery when she was only 2 years old. The first child to be born after he returned from Vietnam, Christine was conceived in Hawaii, when Mary joined him there for a mid-tour R&R break (rest and relaxation).

Despite her physical difficulties, Christine, nicknamed “Ina,” matured into adulthood and managed to live a relatively full life. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Windsor and had a dream of helping children with disabilities and their parents. She suffered a setback, though, in 1997, when she lost her eyesight, a loss directly caused by her birth defects. A shunt implanted as a baby to drain fluid from her brain had deteriorated over time, causing permanent damage to her optic nerves and ultimately, blindness. Ina was just getting her life back on track when she suffered a serious fall, a tragic accident from which she never recovered; she was on life support for nine months before dying at the age of 34.

ina_pics

Left: Christine “Ina” Konyha in her first communion dress, with her grandmother, Ida. Right: Ina as an adult.

Brother Ed Konyha describes the ripple effect on their family. “The Agent Orange not only killed Dad, it killed Ina too. Mom was devastated after Dad died and she was never the same again. She suffered terrible and persistent depression after being left a widow and having to raise four young children as a single mother in her forties and fifties…it aged her prematurely.”

Toby and Mary’s middle child, Carol Konyha, lived near her younger brothers in Vancouver, British Columbia in the 1990s, but during the final months of Ina’s life, she relocated to Phoenix, Arizona to help care for her sister. In 2003, Ed called to tell her about a documentary titled The Friendship Village he’d happened to see on Canadian television. Produced by Canadian filmmaker Michelle Mason, it tells the story of George Mizo, the American veteran who played a major role in the founding of the Vietnam Friendship Village, and documents the ongoing tragic legacy of Agent Orange in Vietnam. Mizo himself had suffered serious health consequences from his wartime exposure to dioxin, and passed away in 2002. When she watched The Friendship Village, Carol felt an immediate connection with the Vietnamese families interviewed in the film. The health issues they described were much the same as her own family’s experiences. She subsequently became a regular supporter of the Friendship Village, through VFVP-USA, always dedicating her donations “In memory of Sgt. Toby Konyha and Christine Konyha.”

Three years ago, Carol decided to step up her support for the Friendship Village. She asked herself, “What can someone like me do that would be even halfway meaningful?” She figured she could raise some money within her own circle of friends and family, but felt that everyone was probably already inundated by donation requests. She wanted to do the fundraising in a way that would be fun and appealing. A freelance baker known for her chocolate cake and cupcakes, she finally hit upon the idea of holding a month-long bake sale.

Carol’s first bake sale, held in 2012, brought in close to $400. The next year, she raised $578. In 2014, in addition to a bake sale, she decided to throw a “Christmas in February” party—a celebration she had hosted when she lived in Vancouver, just for fun. Carol said party guests were happy to contribute to “her charity”—Vietnam Friendship Village—and most generously gave more than the $10 suggested. On her invitation, she also provided the option to donate online, and some friends did so. By combining a fun social event with her bake sale, Carol tripled her return, raising $1,487 this year!

party_pics

Left: Carol’s chocolate cupcakes are always a big hit. Right: Carol offers up a tray of Danish sandwiches at her 2014 “Christmas in February” party. From left: David Smith, Carol Konyha, Carolyn Christy, Patrick Murphy and Joseph Ho.

VFVP-USA depends on volunteers to help with our fundraising efforts, and to have someone like Carol, who knows firsthand what it means to be a “victim of Agent Orange” is all the more meaningful. We hope her family’s story, and her “fun and appealing” fundraising model will inspire other Friendship Village supporters to consider what they can do.

“The devastation caused by Agent Orange on our family is massive. It goes beyond Dad’s death. It left young children without a father, killed our sister and caused her extreme physical and psychological pain throughout her life, prematurely aged and devastated our mother, and left grandchildren without grandparents. The horror of war and chemical warfare came home with Dad. This is why we relate to those children in Vietnam so well—they are Ina’s mirror image. Their families are our mirror image. We are them and they are us… That recognition is the one silver lining that can be salvaged from all of this: By supporting them, however we can, we heal our own wounds.”

—Ed Konyha

Resident Spotlight: Hay Quang Ngo

Big thanks to Jennifer Nguyen, American volunteer-in-residence at Friendship Village, for providing us with this in-depth profile of a former resident of Vietnam Friendship Village, Nay Quong Ngo. You may also click on the graphic at left to access the PDF file. We look forward to sharing  personal stories like these on a regular basis.

Resident Spotlight: Hay Quang Ngo

Click to download PDF

Hay Quang Ngo, 21, has a winning smile. He has a humble nature to his demeanor every time I see him ride into the Friendship Village on his bicycle, as he always greets me with a wave and a slightly reserved, but sincere grin. Even though he and his family have faced many hardships surrounding poverty, one would never think that Hay has experienced any adversities due to his positive and bright attitude that can lift anyone’s spirits.

Hay Ngo with his father and mother.

Hay with his parents, Nha and Thu, at their home in Duong Duc

Born in 1993 and the youngest of six children, Hay has lived a very difficult life living in the rural commune of Duong Duc in Bac Giang province. His parents work arduously as farmers who raise livestock such as chickens, ducks, pigs, and cows on their small compound that have been in Hay’s father’s side of the family for generations. Hay, however, has never once complained about the struggles that he and his family have faced and continue to face; it was only when I had asked him to answer honestly about his upbringing in Duong Duc that he had timidly confided to me the difficulties that his parents had to endure raising his large family.

During the American War, Hay’s father, Nha Quang Ngo, 64, fought in Dak Lak province for eight years where he was physically injured and disabled in 1971 when bullets had pummeled through his arm and foot during gunfire. Nha has physical mobility difficulties due to his injuries sustained in war, which has made it nearly impossible for him to do his work as a farmer. This has resulted in Hay’s mother, Thu Thi Nguyen, 62, needing to work twice as hard as the sole provider in order to support her family. During war-time, Nha was also exposed to herbicides which have resulted in Hay being born with an irregular spine and Hay’s older sister, Hoa Thi Ngo, 32, being born with a lower mental capacity and short-term memory loss.

Instead of Hay’s sister being selected to go the Friend-ship Village, the Veterans Association of Bac Giang province wanted Hay to take her place because Hoa was over the age limit. Hay’s family also felt that Hay would greatly benefit in being able to have an educational opportunity that he would not have gotten otherwise staying in Duong Duc. In doing so, Hay could lessen the pressure for his parents by helping to financially support his large family once he finished his schooling and found a well-paying job. When I had visited Hay’s family in Duong Duc, Nha also expressed to me that he wishes for Hay to continue to work hard in school so that he can find a job where he doesn’t put any strain on his back doing labor-intensive work. Visiting Hay’s family in their old, life-stained home and hearing their heartfelt stories made me realize just how humble and kind Hay was, especially because of the reasons he wanted to attend university. In this brief visit, I also experienced such genuine hospitality from his parents which culminated in a feast that his family had spent hours preparing beforehand.

From 2009 to 2012, Hay resided at the Friendship Village where he attended high school outside of the village and was taken care of at the residential facility for three years. In this time, the Friendship Village was able to pay for his school fees, books and supplies, and provide a warm place to eat and sleep. Although he is no longer a Friendship Village resident, he still visits the village on a daily basis in order to continue to build the relationships that he has developed with residents and staff.

Currently, he is attending the University of Industry in Hanoi where he is in his second year studying to be a mechanic. Since his hometown in the countryside is too far from school, he rents and shares a small, cramped room with another university student where his life consists of school, soccer, and studying. He hopes to be able to help provide for his family once he finishes his schooling, because he wants to give back to his parents and show how much he appreciates all of the struggles that they have experienced in order to shape the compassionate, young man that he is today.

Impressions: Words and Pictures

Friendship Village Houses

Friendship Village Residences [photo by Daniel Wagner]

After participating in a photography workshop held at the Friendship Village, a young German man by the name of Daniel Wagner emailed a selection of his photographs to Rosemarie “Rosi” Höhn-Mizo (president of our German and International Committees), along with the lyrics for a song he was inspired to write based on his impression of the Vietnam Friendship Village and its residents. Here is a translation of the message he wrote to Rosi:

Dear Mrs. Rosemarie Höhn-Mizo,
I would like to say that the institution and the thoughts behind the project have impressed me very much. Your committed support for the Friendship Village give me hope that the children who suffer from Agent Orange, in spite of their difficult destiny, will have a better life. My experiences with the children at Friendship Village were thoroughly positive. I felt they are grateful for the help and special education they receive.
If it is possible, I hope to return to the Village and lend additional support to this project.
Sincerely,
Daniel Wagner

A selection of Daniel’s photographs can be found on the Visitor Albums page of our Photo Gallery. Here are the song lyrics inspired by his experience:

AS YOU CAME
by Daniel Wagner

You show me something,
I missed for a long time.

It’s how to smile
and how to live my life.

You gave me something,
I already forgot.

It’s how to love
and how to give someone a hug.

When I see you standing here,
and I feel your power of love.
The struggle and the pain,
the feeling of being not the same.

But I promise you, I love you as you came.

When I got here,
to this foreign place.
I was not sure,
if I could handle this mace.

A new country,
another language and morals.

You took my hand
and made me ignore it.
You shown me something,
I already unlearned.

It’s how to think
of a better world.

When I see you standing here,
and I feel your power of love.
The struggle and the pain,
the feeling of being not the same.

But I promise you, I love you as you came.

 

Looking Forward to 2014

washing veggies

As we turn the calendar to another year, we find ourselves a little bit behind… Our Fall 2013 print newsletter is just now being prepared to be mailed, and our New Year email has just now been sent—one sole message riding on the tail end of a great flurry of solicitations mailed in the past month by too many organizations.

Our message is simple. The Friendship Village is a one-of-a-kind facility that provides nourishment, medical care, physical therapy, and special educational opportunities to about 120 children of varying ages (as well as rotating groups of aging Vietnamese veterans whose care is funded by the Veterans Association of Vietnam). Many of the medical conditions or physical disabilities treated there are presumed caused by Agent Orange, lingering effects of the American war in Vietnam.

Now in its sixteenth year of operations, the Vietnam Friendship Village has an inspirational founding story, having grown from one American veteran’s gesture of peace and reconciliation toward his former “enemies.” George Mizo’s dream lives on and continues to inspire people from all over the world who find the Friendship Village and are moved to become part of our extended community of volunteers and donors.

In 2014, our U.S. Committee will continue our efforts to double our fundraising capacity. Your help is needed and there are many ways to contribute. Whether making a personal financial donation, serving on our board, or helping introduce Friendship Village to new supporters via word of mouth, social networking, or a special event (film, slide show, or fundraising party), we welcome your involvement!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!