Where do I start, how do I begin… These past couple of days have been crazy. Crazy in terms of schedule, crazy in terms of hours, crazy in terms of intensity and emotion (did I really say that?). What an experience, and if you would ask me if I would recommend this to you: YES!
As I write this we are driving back from Can Tho to Ho Chi Minh City, time for a debrief and goodbyes. Difficult to describe, sad because we are leaving but happy to go back to my family again after a crazy month of travel (US twice for a week and Vietnam for 12 days).
Before describing a bit more what we’ve been up to so far I would like to draw some attention to Team4Tech first. Team4Tech is the organization who facilitated this trip. Together with the non-profit organisation So one call to action, if you like to give back (or if your company is interested in this) make sure to look at Team4Tech’s website, that is what they are good at. I think especially for technology companies this is a great opportunity, we all get caught up in technology and work we sometimes (and I do very often) forget that there is more outside there. More than the limited immediate environment we are exposed to. Team4Tech can help you grow as a person, at least that is how I experienced it.
Now back to my story. We’ve spent time the last couple of days in 2 orphanages in Can Tho. The contrast was huge between these orphanages. One orphanage almost didn’t feel like an orphanage, it was clear that the people who managed it took great pride in maintaining it. It had a huge fruits and vegetable garden, it had a fish pond even and all areas looked well maintained and clean. Keep in mind that although the surroundings look nice, that doesn’t make up for what these orphans are missing out on. In our western society happiness and success is often measured by looking at the outside, sure it may contribute to it in some shape or form but it isn’t leading. Love / affection, appreciation, acknowledgement, a chance… this is what truly matters.
Lets get back to why we went to Vietnam, contribute to Orphan Impact to help them scale to more orphanages. As I said there was a huge contrast between these orphanages, the first we visited in Can Tho was an orphanage where Orphan Impact had been running computer classes for a while now. We went there to test new curriculum. This new material was developed by some of my VMware Foundation team members (with help of Orphan Impact) who leveraged material provided on Code.org but customised and localised it it so that it would work in this setting. It was great seeing how fast these kids picked up things like binary, and ran through their first “coding” exercises. It was amazing to see how much joy it brought them.
The second orphanage was a new “location” for Orphan Impact, as I have mentioned before Orphan Impact is looking to grow their offering to as many orphanages as they potentially can, and we needed to experience what it requires to roll out classes to a new location. Majority of the people reading this have probably done datacenter migrations or deployed new kit at some point, but that is not anything like this. Yes you will have to install new laptop computers, but that is just the start. What about power? Having enough outlets and sufficient power to run 10 laptops is not as obvious as it sounds. Having enough desks to place them on is not a given. Having a working internet connections, who knows what you will encounter… Or even worse, where on earth do I mount my projector when all I have is a couple of round pillars? Ability to think quick and adapt is key here, as you don’t have 10 days to set it up, but hours before the first class will start, and these kids are eager and you don’t want to keep them waiting as educating them is what it is all about.
I don’t want to say too much about the orphanage itself other than it was what I expected an orphanage to be like. I was told by the folks of Orphan Impact that this is also what 90% of them are like, and I guess my previous visit kind of skewed reality. Fact is that in Vietnam many orphanages barely have enough to make ends meet, and as such things like maintenance just come last as surviving is more important. I understand that, and don’t judge anyone as it is what it is. What struck me most though during the visits to the orphanages was how much joy these computer classes (and english lessons) brought these kids, although they were in a very rough place they had something to look forward to. They were offered a chance, they were acknowledged and last but not least they received love and appreciation during the classes from their teachers. It became clear to me that the classes that Orphan Impact provide are not just about teaching them computer skills, their is a huge social aspect to it. Much bigger than I would have ever imagined.
Once again I would like to say that what Orphan Impact does for orphans in Vietnam does matter. Maybe they will not change the world, and that is not realistic to expect, but they are changing the lives of these orphans that much has became clear. I want to thank all of the people who decided to donate money to these great organizations, because of you many more orphans can be reached. Thanks, from the bottom of my heart.
PS: If you like to see more pictures check my Flickr Page, I took a lot of pics.
*** I know many of my fellow technology lovers have a big heart. I would like to ask each and everyone of you who has enjoyed reading my articles to donate something to either Team4Tech or Orphan Impact. For 200 dollars you can sponsor computer classes for an orphan for a whole year! ***