Monthly Archives: December 2012

Come Sit at Our Table

US Committee table at Friendship Village

VFVP-USA members Paul Wicker, Becky Luening and Don Blackburn enjoy a meal at the Friendship Village.

As we get ready to turn the calendar page from 2012 to 2013, I want to thank all of our friends in the USA and elsewhere who have helped support the Viet Nam Friendship Village with a donation this year—whether $10 or $1,000 or more. Inflation continues to drive up the cost of food and other basic supplies around the world, including Viet Nam, so every dollar is appreciated.

If you have not yet given, I invite you to do so. Become part of our international community…come sit at our table. Make a donation to the Friendship Village today.

Whether it is time, labor or funds we donate to this project, we are all volunteers, but once in a while our contribution to the Friendship Village is rewarded. I felt like the recipient of a gift when I picked up this email message on Christmas Eve from our friend Long, who works in the computer classroom at VFV [edited slightly for readability]:

Dear Becky,

The kids and I  like to thank the international committee for your assistance and the pleasure you have brought to our lives. For us who were unlucky enough to be born with a disability, it helps to know there are people out there who understand and care about us. The gift you give us is not just a meal, but the great gift of the spirit, of sharing.

You are like the Santa Claus of the Vietnam Friendship Village.

I hope you will convey to your heartfelt charity my cordial words and wishes for good health as you continue your work in the new year.

Happy MerryChristMas from Long in computer classroom at the VietNam Friendship Village

Group photo in computer classroom

Members of the International Committee pose for a picture with computer class instructors and students. (Long is first person on left in front row.)

Flat Stanley Visits the Village

by Paul Wicker

When you see the title of this post, you may ask, who is Flat Stanley and where did he come from?

Well, Stanley was an ordinary student in Mrs. Stunkard’s Fifth Grade class at Paradise Professional Development School in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA until one day, while taking a nap, he was flattened by a falling bulletin board. But that did not stop Stanley. He knew that many children had to overcome physical disabilities to achieve their dreams.

Stanley had always wanted to travel, so his teacher put him in an envelope and asked me to him with me on some of my trips. In 2010 Stanley went with me to El Salvador in Central America. He traveled with other friends to exotic places like Turkey and Lebanon. When he returns to his fifth-grade classroom he always shows his pictures to his classmates and tells them about the wonderful people he has met.

This year when Stan heard I was going to Vietnam Friendship Village he begged me to take him with me so he could visit the residents and have his picture taken with them.

Flat Stanley with a Friendship Village friend

Flat Stanley with Ngo Hai Mai

Click here to see more photos of Flat Stanley at Viet Nam Friendship Village.

Click here to find out how to become a financial supporter of the Viet Nam Friendship Village.

A Building We Can be Proud Of

US Committee members who attended this year’s International Meeting at the Viet Nam Friendship Village came home with a clear assignment: Raise $22,573 to pay for the second-story addition to the school building. The reason we happily accepted this responsibility (and more—proceeding to set a lofty goal of raising $50,000 within the fiscal year, Oct. 1, 2012 to Sept. 30, 2013) is because when the original one-story, four-classroom building was constructed in 2004-05, we were proud to say it was funded by US donations (split 50-50 between our committee and the Vietnam Children’s Fund), and we want to continue to say that. And the addition is already completed, which is how we know exactly how much is owed for the project. [Click here if you’d like to chip in!]

Blame it on jetlag: despite our committee’s close ties with this beautiful school building, I failed to bring home one photograph of the outside of the building taken from a distance, although I did take a couple shots of one of the upstairs classrooms, which has been nicely outfitted to be able to teach life skills to the children. So last week I asked our Vietnamese partners to take some pictures for me, and suggested they include some of the school children, waving from the balcony—and lo and behold, the next day, several beautiful shots arrived in my email box, along with wishes for a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Peace on Earth…

The recent tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut has many of us in the United States meditating, as we grieve, on how to grapple with the epidemic of gun violence in our country. In listening to public discussions of the problem, I’ve heard more than one person draw parallels to the many, many children victims of wars, past and present, worldwide.

Drafting Peace AppealFollowing the ceremonial signing of the 2013-14 Memorandum of Understanding by the heads of the five national representatives present at this year’s International Meeting, one more document was passed around for the signature of everyone in the room. It was an “Appeal for Peace” initiated by our French partner, Georges Doussin. In the photo you can see Georges engaged in the process of drafting the appeal with Rosemarie Mizo and a French translator. Here is the text of the document we signed:

An Appeal for Peace
from the International Committee
of the Viet Nam Friendship Village
— 25 October 2012 —

Wars driven by financial greed have caused the loss of many lives and plunged millions of people into poverty and hunger. The International Committee for the Viet Nam Friendship Village appeals to all people to join hands to replace this inhumane exploitation with a dedication to peace and solidarity; and to replace hatred with friendship. Together we oppose all war.

Here at Van Canh, we have built a Friendship Village for war victims. It is the fulfillment of a dream and desire of veterans to fight for peace. Today, in love and solidarity, we dream about a world at peace. Today we envision the world as a village. For the happiness of every child, let us join together to save that village!

This simple, straightforward expression of a collective dream for world peace is true to the spirit of the founding of the Friendship Village. Doussin was one of the handful of international war veterans originally assembled to carry out the vision that grew out of American veteran George Mizo’s original desire to reconcile with his former enemies.

A visceral understanding of the nature of institutionalized violence often fuels a strong yearning among veterans for a world without war. The absence of war, of course, doesn’t mean an end to conflict, but those of us engaged in “peace work” strongly believe that most, if not all, conflict can be resolved nonviolently. For peace to be possible, humans must be willing to act from a place of compassion rather than competition. We must nurture the basic human urges of empathy, caring and sharing. This goes for nation-states as well as individuals.

One of the unique aspects of the Viet Nam Friendship Village is that it is partially supported by a community of people of different nationalities. This collaboration necessarily requires that we work at fostering cross-cultural understanding and mutual respect at the same time that we work together to provide good nutrition, effective treatments and education for Friendship Village residents. While not always easy, it is a very good practice to be engaged in.

VFVP-USA’s Winter 2012 Newsletter was mailed yesterday to just over 1,000 U.S. supporters. If you are not on our snail mail list, or if you want to share the newsletter with others, you may download the PDF via our newsletter page.

As we get ready to turn the page to 2013, on behalf of our board of directors, I extend heartfelt gratitude, once again, to Vietnam Friendship Village friends and donors in the USA for all your great support. Let us continue to strive together, in all different ways, toward our common goal of a world at peace.

Peace Pole

ABOVE: Dang Vu Dung and Ahara “Shige” Sigemitu pose next to the Vietnamese and Japanese language versions of the message “May Peace Prevail on Earth”  visible on two sides of a Peace Pole discovered at Tam Dao National Park north of Hanoi.