Yes, we are back from Vietnam. And yes, all 3 kids survived without us, thanks to my mum and my trustworthy helper, Julie. I survived the trip too--as in, I did not die of missing the kids or die of worrying about them, as I half-suspected I would. In fact, I really enjoyed the trip & though we spoke to the kids every morning and every night, there was a LOT to keep us occupied & give us food for thought every day, such that my mind was not always thinking about home.
If anyone is reading this & thinking about doing something meaningful during this Christmas season, I would encourage you to think about sponsoring a child through the World Vision Office in your country. During our trip, 3 of us Singaporeans got to meet up with our sponsored children. Some of the Singaporeans had been sponsoring their kids for over 10 years! To finally put a face to a name was an incredible experience. World Vision does not just help children. The money you provide is ploughed into a series of strategic initiatives that benefits the entire village and community--from building clean water facilities, to building infrastructure that will enable the villagers to be self-sustaining (e.g., proper irrigation systems), to ensuring a hygienic and healthy environment (e.g., through building proper toilets or sponsoring health check ups for all), World Vision has a comprehensive stategy to help villagers attain self-sustainability, and we got to see it all on the trip! Once self-sustainability is achieved, WV pulls out.
I appreciated the structure of the trip--we visited Tien Lu, a struggling village that has just started receiving help from WV, as well as Phu Cu, a village that has been with WV for 10+ years. (Phu Cu has achieved self-sustainability and WV will be pulling out next year.) The difference between the two places was obvious. I feel proud that World Vision, one of the largest and most well-known development organisations in the world (other than the UN sponsored ones, like UNICEF etc) is a Christian organisation that is not ashamed of its Christian faith. I was also very impressed by its very methodical and structured way of carrying out its work--from a detailed assessment phase, to drawing out a 5 year plan, to implementation, to post-implementation... it was very, well, er... Civil Service like!! You can read more about World Vision at its website. The CEO of World Vision USA also wrote a great book, The Hole in Our Gospel, which we have read and would recommend to all.
After coming back from the trip, I am now more determined to get Dan & Ben involved in writing and supporting our sponsored children in Laos and Indonesia. I have to bashfully admit that we have not been writing to them regularly at all, and seeing the delight on the kids' faces when we met them, I can tell you--they really do appreciate your letters and gifts and help and encouragement! This will be one of the holiday projects I will get the kids to start on! YAY!! I am really glad that we went for this trip. Instead of a luxurious holiday where shopping & eating is the main objective, this trip enabled me to learn more about Christian development work, while still having a good time bonding with my team mates, playing with the kids, and thinking & praying about God's work. And perhaps one day, when the kids are older, we will bring them along for another trip--to let them experience third-world living, first hand! ^__^
p.s. don't you think Ben looks EXACTLY like my husband in this photo?