Wiggling my toes in the warm sand, I stared out at the majestic beauty of the Cua Dai beach in Hoi An. Leaving Da Nang for the weekend, I was excited to take a break from work. But even as we were walking through Khu Pho Co Hoi An (Ancient Town of Hoi An), being measured for dresses and suits, and haggling over prices, I was constantly reminded that the VIET2010 program is almost half done.
During the past two weeks, the seven Engagement fellows have visited a number of different institutions that focus on Agent Orange/dioxin and organizations working with people with disabilities, including Thi Nghe orphanage, Tu Du Village, Handicapped Handicrafts, War Remnants Museum, Hoc Mon Employment Center, Disability Research and Capacity Development Center, Training Center for People with Disabilities in Can Tho, Maison Chance, and St. Francis Shelter, among others. From these orphanages, hospitals, employment and vocational training centers, advocacy groups, and museums, we have been exposed to many aspects of the issues facing victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin and people with disabilities in general, in addition to the measures currently being undertaken to address these issues. Each of these facilities has given the group a different perspective, a different lens to look through, a different piece of the puzzle.
As we begin our Service Week in each of our respective organizations, we are given yet another piece of the puzzle to add to our understanding of the issues facing people with disabilities, some of whom are victims of the lingering effects of Agent Orange/Dioxin. Some of us are working directly with this community, while others are working at organizations that create education, health, and advocacy programs. Some of us are in Saigon, and some of us are in Da Nang. For me, VIET2010 is a story of hope, an awareness of a need, an effort to work towards fulfilling those unmet needs, and an attempt to give voice to the voiceless. With each passing week, our experiences allow us to paint a more complete picture, to recognize the role that we can play, and to figure out how we fit into the puzzle.