"I just spent five weeks in a centre for children with disabilities in Vietnam, as there is a lot of them, contaminated by an herbicide "Agent Orange" that the American Army dumped above the forests of the country, 50 times more powerful than the one used to kill the plants. Agent Orange is a defoliant that remains in the immune system, where it mutates and is transmitted from generation to generation. Forty years after the end of the war, the product continues to affect the population, children are born with birth defects and different pathologies.
It is important to know that in Vietnam, children usually represent a source of income for their families: children with disabilities are, in the end, of no interest and are mostly rejected and placed in centres. In some centers, children can go home at night, but can undergo all forms of abuse ranging from cigarette burn, to kicking...
At the friendship village, the centre I have been placed at, the children who are welcomed there are housed, fed, and cleaned but the conditions of life remain poor. Children only return to their home once a year for those who still have a family. They are 7 to 30 years old, and are trained to be able to return to active life, for those who have mental abilities.
It is with a lot of apprehension that I have started this mission, having never been in contact with children with disabilities. I was put in a class of deaf and mute in the morning, and a class with much more difficult disabilities in the afternoon. The class hours being limited, I asked to do more, and I was given the opportunity to assist the nurses in one of the houses. The first days were difficult emotionally, but we connected very quickly with the children. We have created sincere and intense links, which now gives a little more meaning to my life. These five weeks have been just an exchange of much much love, and all the most beautiful feelings in the world.
I had no special exceptions, only a bit of time to offer, and achieve one of my life wishes. I knew I'd live a beautiful experience, but I can say that today, I've lived the experience of my life. I met these exceptional little ones, raised in respect of others and helping them, with a lot of love, very intelligent and funny. And also, a staff devoted to this cause, and admirable.
I invite you all to get closer to the disability, or to another cause, to outshine your fears and your limits, to get out of your comfort zone and face all these inequalities that will overwhelm us all our lives."