30-Hour Famine

A global movement against hunger and poverty

A journey to incredible India – Part 2

By Famine Advocate Lee Ling

Day 3 & 4 in India: Eye-opening

Before we embarked on our trip to India, we have been warned to expect the unexpected. I wasn’t too worried as I thought that poverty wasn’t anything that is too new to me. After all, I have been to third world countries, I have been to the 30-Hour Famine camps and I have fasted for 30 hours straight. But I was dead wrong. My experience over these few days was really intense and eye-opening.

More than half of the children here were malnourished, underweight and physically and mentally stunted.

Shue Xin measuring a child under the Umang Program.  This program is implemented by World Vision to tackle malnourishment among the children.

Even the cows here are severely malnourished.

People are using filthy water for bathing, laundry, washing cutlery and everything else. As a result, they have skin problems and diarrhoea.

One of the pools where they get water from.

The villagers here stay in houses made with mud and fortified with dried cow dung, bamboos and woods. However, mud houses are fragile and will be easily destroyed when there are heavy rains or floods. The poorer ones are not able to repair their houses if it requires woods/bamboos as these costs money. They are also not allowed to chop trees (if any) as these are from a reserved forest. Throughout the trip, we have seen people applying new layer of mud and dung to their houses which seems to be quite a routine.

A few houses will share a tiny toilet normally made of out dried hay and plastic bags. There is no sewerage system. In this particular toilet, the waste will fall from the tree to the tree roots and ground below.

The water pumps where they get underground water for drinking. Children and women would have to fetch water at least twice a day and walk about 15 minutes or more.
Dried cow dungs are used as burner for them to cook as they could not afford coal, oil or even woods. Many ladies are seen drying and handling cow dungs during the day. The dungs here are flattened and molded into sticks.

There is no electricity in this village and people rely on oil lamps. It is extremely dangerous as it can easily catch a fire if it’s accidentally knock over. There was a little girl who we met with severely deformed hands as she was burnt in the fire.

Over these two days, we have visited 3 families and an ICDS (Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) center.
A toddler from the ICDS center. The children here are so irresistibly endearing even though a lot of them are malnourished.

The advocates preparing food for the children at the ICDS center. World Vision provides nutritional food for the children here.

One of the families which we visited was Purnima’s family. Her family is extremely poor and hunger is a daily occurance for them. Her family survives on a meagre income of 1000 rupees a month (approximately RM57).

Purnima is malnourished like many girls in her village. She is very very thin, soft-spoken and often clings to her mother. We noticed that her head was always hung low and she would look at us with her eyes looking slightly upwards. She was also slower to respond. We knew that these are some of the effects of malnourishment on her. Purnima also falls sick very often and she suffers from typhoid, heart problem and skin disease.

Purnima and me

We followed her to fetch water, which is her twice a day routine. She bought along a water container and she supported it on the side of her waist and with her hands. We walked briskly and it took us about 10 mins to reach the water pump. She was barefooted and we walked across a dried up mud field. They told us that during the rainy season, the whole area will become muddy and walking will be really tough. Wearing shoes is impossible as the shoes will be sticking to the mud.

Kang Yong helps Purnima with the water container. This is quite a strenuous task for Purnima as she is weak and would always feel very tired.

Delivering food from World Vision to Purnima’s family.

Despite the differences of language, skin colour, background and everything else, it’s still very heartbreaking when we see the sufferings of the people here, especially children. If only more people could start GIVING then children like Purnima would have a better future.

A journey to incredible India – Part 1

By Famine Advocate Lee Ling

Hello India!

We’ve finally arrived at the Kolkata airport after 4 hours of flight! It was sunny and breezy when we reached. First impression of Kolkata? Very dusty.

We’ve just arrived. Don’t we all look excited?

Once we left the Kolkata city, the roads became narrow and the streets were only lighted by the moonlight. There were only a handful of cars throughout our journey. Occasionally, we will pass by streets lined by  small, dimly lit and run down shops where the locals buy their necessities. Most of the locals that we saw on the streets are men, possibly because women and girls here are confined within their homes. The rest of the roads were mostly lined with fields, trees, ponds and mud houses.

After 4 hours of a very bumpy and dark ride, we reached our lodging in the village. It was already 9pm then. It was a very cold night as it was the winter season. The facilities in our lodging were very basic – no  hot shower or heater. I almost yell when I splashed the freezing cold water on myself during shower. That night, I was curled up like a snail in my sleeping bag to keep myself warm and I was thinking how blessed I am as I will only experience this slight discomfort for a few days. What about others who have never been warm before?

Day 2 in India – The Journey Begins

We woke up with much excitement on what today is going to bring us.

Briefing in the morning.

We had a video shooting after the briefing. This was my first time being videod and we were all very nervous and awkward.

That is Kang Yong in the photo, sharing his thoughts for the video

Our first stop for the day is World Vision India’s ADP office

After the visit to World Vision office, we visited a boy called Samiran.

Little Samiran was only 6 when he had an excruciatingly painful throat infection. He had to endure this for 20 months as his parents could not afford to send him to a good hospital. His father worked as a daily labourer and earned about 1,500 per month (approximately RM88). When World Vision started working in his village, Samiran, together with other children who were ill, were taken to the Kolkata hospital. He was diagnosed and underwent immediate surgery to remove his chronic tonsillitis.

Us and Samiran’s family outside of their mud house. Samiran is the smallest boy in this photo.

Picture of love

After leaving Samiran’s house, we went to an Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) centre with the mission to paint a rainbow-themed mural on their wall.

Due to the high number of malnourishment cases in this community, Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) is designed to guide expectant and new mothers and to provide the children with nutritional food.

I was hoping that it would turn out okay…My only drawing experience was from playing Draw Something.

Half way through, the sky turned dark and it was getting increasingly difficult for us to see. There was no electricity in this place and of course, there also wasn’t any light or fan. We could only rely on our torch lights.

It was really tiring as we had been squinting our eyes and working through the darkness. In my mind, I was thinking about the people here who have been struggling with darkness all their life without electricity.

3 hours later…
Want to see how it turns out?


Finally! Here’s our masterpiece 🙂

Though this mural won’t be winning any best mural award, but it was done with our hearts and sweat. I hope that it can cheer up the little ones and their mothers here whenever they feel dejected by poverty.

That night, I thought of Little Samiran. It was really heart-breaking to think of such a young child suffering for a prolong period when his illness can be easily treated with proper medical care.  What he told us today was repeatedly playing in my mind. “It was really painful especially when I was eating. I felt like the food was stuck in my throat and wouldn’t go down. Sometimes, I felt like I was going to faint”.

I cringed at the thought that we might not be seeing this adorable little boy today if he didn’t get the assistance from World Vision. How many more children out there are suffering from treatable sickness? We cannot do much as an individual, but together we can bring a world of change to people like Samiran and his community.

Would you join me by participating in this year 30-hour Famine? If you have already joined the camp previously, why not join as a volunteer or camp leader this year? You will never know how many lives that you will impact by just participating.

I’ll see you then!

第三篇 – 谭淑欣



校长和老师们一一把我们介绍后,我们就和小朋友们进行破冰游戏。没想到天真活泼的小朋友们都很配合我们一起跳起舞来。过后还有几位小女孩呈现的才艺表演,如跳印度舞、演奏小钢琴和唱歌。我觉得他们都非常有才华,他们的表演太棒了!接着,我们四人也代表马来西亚呈现我们的传统舞蹈Rasa Sayang和手语歌曲。虽然我们语言不精通,但我们也尽量用简单的孟加拉语和当地的小孩们打招呼和交流。完成之后,我们也带小朋友们到户外玩游戏和踢球。每个人都尽他们的100%力量做到最好,虽然最后的结果没赢也没输,但我们每个人都发挥了团队精神。再次回到学校,因为我们将派礼物给小朋友们。我们送上铅笔盒和文具品,他们都很兴奋。小小的礼物代表着我们的一份心意,可以看见孩子们脸上带着快乐的笑容与满足感。

突然好不想离开这个学校和这个地方,因为这里充满着欢笑声就像孩子们的快乐天堂。心里面有许多的感触,这群生活在贫困地区的小孩穿着破旧的校衣,学校的环境也没有很好。但他们竟然可以那么知足,发自内心最纯的笑容和简单的快乐深深地打动了 我的心。很喜欢和小孩子们在一起的时光,他们教导了我乐观地看待每一样事物。就像他们每一位都乐观地等待着一丝希望。每个小孩都应该拥有无忧的童年,每个小孩都有他们的梦想,但饥饿很有可能剥夺了他们的希望和梦想。在此我呼吁大家一起加入抗贫的列车,让孩子们可以在健全的环境中健康地成长,且活出丰盛的生命。让我们一起同心协力,对抗饥饿。


第二篇 – 谭淑欣





Purnima爸爸是位建筑工人,收入都是依靠着建筑屋顶,每建一所就可赚两到三百卢比卢比。Purnima一家四口就居住在那间只用泥巴和茅草所盖的小茅屋里,外面还有一个小的厨房。 Purnima带我们到小茅屋里参观,里面的设备很简陋,只有那单薄的床铺让他们一起休息。对于他们来说只要有个安乐窝可以让他们遮风挡雨那就已经很满足了。其实Purnima一家人都面对着粮食短缺和营养不良的问题,我本身的个子不高然而Purnima妈妈的高度却只到我肩膀罢了,那可显见当地营养不良问题真的很严重。Purnima 有着一个伟大的梦想,她说她的愿望是想成为一名医生要拯救更多生命。同时我很欣赏Purnima永不放弃与积极面对人生的精神,就算没有喜爱的玩具,没有那喜爱的新衣,也没有丰富的一餐,但只要有得吃和喝那以足够满足他们的需求,这也提醒了我知足常乐的道理。在我们离开前,我们送上她最喜欢的水果、米和一些日常用品,也可显见在她那微微的笑容里留露出那无名的喜悦感。



我们再次沿着那小路步行, 紧接来到了另一个当地小孩Parama 的家,初次的见面她显得有点害羞。Parama很小的时候父母亲离开了她,没有双亲的她依然活得很快乐,她喜欢上学和阅读,记得当她邀请我们参观她的小茅屋时,她便拿起她喜爱的英文书坐在床上开心的朗诵着。一片漆黑黑的茅屋里白天就依靠着那阳光的照射, Parama就只借用那一道光来阅读仿佛就如凿壁偷光,晚上的她就只好使用油灯。

经过了短时间的相处,害羞的Parama渐渐变得开放起来,开朗的她还跟我们跳起舞来。单薄的衣服使Parama在那寒冷的天气里不停发抖,她的祖母没有稳定的收入,所以没有能力购买新衣、作业书与课本给她。祖母知道自己的孙女喜欢上学,她更希望自己可以让Parama 接受更良好的教育,拥有更良好的读书环境,不过就是经济上不允许。Parama午餐都是在学校吃,早和晚餐则在家里吃。祖母告诉我们说她们早上只吃一些储存的米饼,然后晚餐就吃一道菜,这也就是她们每一天的三餐,也根本就不足以填饱肚子。祖母也说因为年纪逐渐增长,没办法下田工作,所以她每一天只能在鱼池里钓鱼,再把钓到的鱼拿去卖以维持两人的生计。

和祖母的谈话中,我看得出祖母的忧虑,祖母告诉我说“随着年纪的增长又加上老毛病缠身,不知道还可以活到多久,而Parama又会由谁来看顾呢?”而我听到这里真的感到很心酸,一个这么活泼开朗的小女孩,从小就要面对被父母抛弃的事实,以及生活在那么恶劣的环境里,但她并没有因此而气馁,反而把悲伤化为她求学的动力。Parama和她的祖母感情非常好,她也说她想考取好的成绩,将来找到一份好的工作照顾祖母,以报答的祖母对她的养育之恩。小小年纪 却那么懂事的她,真的叫人感到安慰,渴望着可以收到良好教育的机会。在我们离开前,我可看见Parama和祖母眼神里的不舍得,她们所给予我们的拥抱让我深深得感受到那份爱与感恩。



哟! 让我们煮出健康


UMANG Programme 也被称为烹煮营养食物醒觉教育。这个醒觉活动是世界宣明会开启的其中一个计划,目的就是为了教导妇女们如何烹煮营养食物给她们的小孩、提供保健咨询及教导纯母乳喂养新生儿的重要性。0-3岁的小孩必须要有足够的营养才不会影响发育,所以在这个重要期,世界宣明会志工都会呼吁妇女们踊跃参与其计划。不但可以增加知识,同时也可以让他们的小孩得到所需的营养。我们四子在那里也参与这一次的醒觉活动,希望在这醒觉活动里能给予居民良好协助。虽然我们语言不通,但从她们的脸上的笑容可以得知出当地妇女都很享受和我们在一起准备这营养餐给予她们的孩子。让我最感动的是,当地的孩子比起现今在城市里的孩子还显得格外独立,他们不需要大人的喂食,也不需要大人的人督促,并可以慢慢的把自己盘里的食物吃完。除此之外,在这醒觉活动里我学会了如何测量小孩子们的体重,也了解到获取足够的营养对成长中孩子是非常重要。根据世界卫生组织显示,2010年全球估计约有1.71亿五岁以下儿童发育迟缓,1.04亿五岁以下儿童体重不足,而在儿童死亡率里,有三分之一是死于营养不良。如果当地能加强了卫生系统,为所有儿童提供了这些措施将能拯救与保护许多幼小的生命,当地父母也不必担心自己的孩子容易患上任何的疾病。离开之前,我们也和当地小孩们玩了一些简单的小游戏,唱歌,无穷的要把欢乐带给他们。



结束了UMANG Programme,我们便要去探访当地居住在海边的Priyanka 。刚来到他家时,大家都很好奇为什么他们的家前面要建起一个堤岸。经过深入的了解后才知道原来一旦遇到雨季,他们的的村庄将面临水灾来袭, 而该堤岸则是用来防止水灾,避免水灾直入村庄。今年8岁的Priyanka喜爱上学阅读。她共有三位兄弟姐妹,而她则排行第二。他们的家里附近有一片红树林,然而每当雨季来临时,海水会因水量增加而导致涨潮引发水灾。四年前,她们的村庄曾经发生过洪水来袭,这也使他们的家园在一瞬间摧毁,当时们他们却只能暂住在学校里。每当水灾发生都会漫延一至一个月半,水的高度都能淹盖了他们大半个房子,然而无辜的村名都必须用上十五天的时间来重新盖好他们的安乐窝。

我们也发现当地居民所拥有的卫生知识不强,Priyanka和其他居民都习惯的使用他们家旁的池塘洗澡、洗衣服、洗餐具等。也因为这样导致Priyanka 一家都容易患上皮肤病,他们所打捞的水就只能用来饮用或煮食。该池塘可说是高度危险地区,根据村民们说曾经有一位七至八岁的小男孩跌进池塘里而身亡。Priyanka 的弟弟Ranjit曾在池塘边玩耍也不小心失足掉进池塘两次,而她的婆婆也曾因为钓鱼时不小心掉进池塘里,使她的半身已经瘫痪。Priyanka 的爸爸是一名渔夫,每个月爸爸不管风吹雨打都冒着生命的危险去出海捕鱼两次,就只为了给予一家人温饱的三餐。每一次出海都是六至七天,我们无意间从Priyanka 母亲口中得知,Priyanka父亲已出海至今已十二天了却还未归来,音讯全无 ,在母亲的眼神可看到那忐忑不安与担心丈夫的伤感。对Priyanka的遭遇,我感到十分同情,Priyanka一家每一天都要应付着不一样的挑战,为了明天和明天而生活,那份坚信与意志力不是你我都一定拥有的。

对此世界宣明会也打算在未来计划里为该地村民开启Umang Programme、建起一所社区中心以便居民可在水灾时当作一间紧急庇护所或是一个让他们一起商讨和举行会议的地方。他们也将会开启家禽养殖计划和提高紧急救援以便改造他们的生活素质。此外,由于当地的厕所只建设在树上非常简陋与危险,因此印度世界宣明也承诺将会为当地居民设置一所良好的公厕,以方便当地居民使用。由此可见世界宣明会的努力是有目共睹,也希望有爱心的您可伸出援手,帮帮这班居民和小孩,让他们不再生活在恐惧和忧虑里。





– 青年特务谭淑欣

印度之旅启程咯!从被选为青年特务到现在我们都期待这一趟学习之旅。做好了所有的准备终于来到了这一天,五彩斑斓的莎丽背后,隐藏了什么故事?我相信这趟之旅必让我大开眼界。 乘坐3个小时半的飞机来到了陌生的地方。刚开始的心情当然是兴奋既紧张因为这里的环境、语言、文化截然不同,但一下飞机就被热情的印度世界宣明会工作人员带上花圈,让我感觉这里的人都好热情,紧张情绪立即消失。









"食物卡在我的喉咙,我感到好辛苦,就像快晕了!!"Samiran 道出。
慢性扁桃体炎,一个关乎生命生与死的疾病,若无法获得医治将夺走他的生命。我们驱车前往到一个受过世界宣明会帮助的小孩家庭 – Samiran Biswas, 刚抵达他家时,我感到非常惊讶,住在狭小和缺乏基本设施的空间里,那是怎样的生活与滋味呢?

疾病让他饱受折磨,茅草盖成的屋顶虽然可以遮阳和挡雨,但却无法抵寒。冷天来临时他就一直咳不停,进食时,他都会觉得喉咙疼痛。他的父母习惯性地用手电筒照他的喉咙,看看他的喉咙是否好些或是被食物卡着, 然而这又如何能改变孩子承受病痛的事实? 他们接受了当地医院的基本治疗,但无法获愈。眼看孩子的疾病一天比一天严重,他们更是心急了,于是送往城中看病,医生告知必须动手术才能康复,而手术费是42000 卢比(约RM2408)。天啊,这对一名劳工及季节性农民来说是一场重打击,收入每个月大概是1500 卢比(约RM86),都已经无法维持家计了,又如何获得这笔钱呢?



告别了Samiran,我们前往一所综合儿童发展计划中进行墙壁绘画。通过搭配合作下,他们开始了一项紧急营养与成长计划(名为UMANG Program (Urgent Management Action Nutritional Growth)。这计划的目的是为了让更多的妇女了解以及教导她们如何让0-3岁的婴儿获取足够的营养,解决营养不良的危机。我和其他的三个特务齐心合力把那幅墙填满色彩,试图让这个环境充满温馨的景象。





The Worldwide Calling

By Brandon Ng
30-Hour Famine Advocate 2012

The last part of my trip involved visiting a district where World Vision has already been a part of for the past few years. The objective of the visit was to see the difference in the standards of living after World Vision had started helping out in the commune. The district was the Yen Thuy district.

World Vision Vietnam has established the Yen Thuy ADP since 2008. They had set up a variety of different programs and resources for the community such as starting up a nutrition club for wives around the community. Mothers and wives from around the commune would meet every month or so to learn about the preparing nutritious food for their family to treat malnutrition. When we were there, we actually visited and took part in one of the nutrition club’s sessions. The session for the day was about diarrhoea. Each mother had to draw on mah-jong paper and present their opinions to everybody else. It was so gratifying to see the women take part in the session and interact so well while learning.
After the session, we visited one of the women’s (Sen)family. While we chatted, we could see the confidence of the family – much more than that of the previous families we had visited. They were more composed,they smile easily and answered our questions cheerfully. They had a baby, called Hoa, and she was 9 months old. Hoa was 9kgs at her age! Healthy as an ox. The family told us how much World Vision has helped improve their living conditions. Sen, who participates in the nutrition club, was taught how to raise Hoa properly to the healthy baby she is today. The family, while far from being rich, was in a much better condition and much more self-sustainable compared to the previous families we’ve visited.

Little Hoa and her family were the last people we interviewed and visited on our trip. Our group headed back to Hanoi to rest for a night and for some sight-seeing.

Overall, my visit to Vietnam opened my eyes to a few things.

1)    About the reality of poverty running rampant amongst the people around us.
I met with people who were actually living below the poverty line and watched how they struggled through their daily lives, not knowing how much yield they would get from their crops, not knowing when their next meal would come.

2)    Charity work is not just about donating money.
I mean sure, most times you think that as long as you have the money you can do anything. The important part is collecting as much money as you can right? Wrong. The crucial part to charity is the implementation. The allocation of funds would be crucial to building a sustainable life. The key to helping these communes would not be to just give them the money, but using the money for them to build a sustainable life.

If you give a man a fish he can eat for a day, if you teach a man how to fish, he can eat for a lifetime.

3)    The improvement that World Vision has brought to the community.
World Vision Vietnam has improved the lives of the people in the HuuLoi commune by leaps and bounds. I can only hope that the same improvements can be made in the future for the various communes in the Mai Chau district for the people I’ve come to meet and know there.

Poverty is man’s greatest enemy. I’ve seen the war and I’ve been part of the battle. And here we are, hand in hand, fighting the good fight. Will you join us?

The Side You Don’t See

By Brandon Ng
30-Hour Famine Advocate 2012

The next few days were a whirl of events. We interviewed three families, visited a school and a health station.

In the Tan Mai commune, one of the families we visited was Toan’s family.  The family works on a farm.  The plight of Toan and his family truly had a big impact on me. Toan is a 6 year old boy who walks at least 2km to and fro from school every day in the hot sun.

His younger brother, Tinh, recently underwent surgery at a hospital in Hanoi to treat his leg, suffering from muscle inflammation. Their parents had to borrow up to 20 million dong (approx. RM3,000) from relatives in order to treat Tinh’s leg. However, after the surgery, it was found that Tinh’s bone in the leg had not been rejoined properly, and was growing at an awkward angle.

The situation is quite dire and the parents are financially tight. Even as they struggle to pay the enormous debts they owe to their relatives, they have no idea where to get the money to be able to pay for Tinh’s second surgery.

They earn at most 17 million dong (RM 2,720) a year of which they spend at least 7.2 million dong (about RM450) at least on food – mainly rice and fish. They really want to send Tinh back for treatment but they have no means to. There is no more pain in the muscle but the bone is not fixed together properly after the surgery and that would affect Tinh’s development if it isn’t fixed soon.

We also had the opportunity to visit the Toan’s parents’ farm. And boy was it difficult to reach. It was set on the mountain, and all of us had to hike up the mountain to get to the farm. Some of the people in our group couldn’t even make it to the top. This puts things into perspective. Day in day out, Toan’s parents have to climb all the way up the mountain to do their farming, with only very minimal yield, insufficient to sustain their daily needs.

I used to love to play games like Farmville, or Harvest Moon which simulates farming on as a video game but this; this was a totally different ball game. This was a huge reality check for me. In reality, farming was not an easy task, the uncertainty of the yield, the dependence on the weather. Farming as a job was just too unpredictable.

Another activity that we conducted was that we attended a primary school in the Pu Bin commune. I was in charge of the games and we played various games like “Eagle and Chick”, kite-flying, football, and a little bit of catching. We had a wonderful time with the children and I think they had fun too.

I realised one thing through this activity, though — Football is in every little boy’s blood. While there was lukewarm response from the children in our efforts to fly the kites that we brought, the moment we took out the football and gave it to the children every boy came out and started chasing after the ball. And I mean every boy. The sight was incredible, how 30-40 boys were screaming and chasing after the ball.

Children after an exciting game of football. From left, Jym from MY FM, Al from Says.com, Brandon the Famine Advocate, Michelle the Famine Advocate behind in blue and Kimberlylow.com at the far right.

In our sharing that night, Jym, from MY FM, said : “When I played with the children, I realised that happiness is shared by everyone. When we were playing we didn’t care who was black or brown or yellow or white, but we were all happy together. Even though there was a language barrier, where we couldn’t speak Vietnamese, we were all still able to enjoy a great time together.”

It was quite gratifying for me to see how even when living in such a poor state, the children were capable of being so happy. But I really believe, to the core of my heart; that these children deserve so much better. A better life, a better future, not to be stuck in this vicious cycle of poverty they’re in if WE DO NOT DO SOMETHING.


Stepping Up, Stepping Out

By Brandon Ng
30-Hour Famine Advocate 2012

So there I was, at the airport, at 7:30 in the morning, after being dropped off by my parents. There, I met up with complete strangers.

Brandon, the youngest in the group is seated in the front wearing black. Photo by kimberlylow.com

You see, me, little old me, was chosen, to be one of five Famine Advocates to be – well, advocates of the 30-Hour Famine cause in Malaysia and I was chosen to take part in this media visit, with other people from various media portals. I was going to Vietnam to witness World Vision’s community development work in 3 communes. To witness the poverty that is actually happening right now in Vietnam. To be honest, right down to the very last hour I felt that the whole experience was pretty surreal. I truly did not know what to expect from this trip. I was leaving Malaysia, my home, behind and venturing into a different country, a different culture, to have a hands-on insight into the reality of poverty.

If that wasn’t counted as stepping out of my comfort zone, I don’t know what is.

The timetable on the first day was pretty easy on us. There wasn’t much to do besides being on the road  day. After touching down at about 12pm local time, we headed straightaway to the Mai Chau district, in Hoa Binh province. It is 130km away from Hanoi and 40km from Hoa Binh city. The whole journey took up to 5 hours on the dusty, dreadfully bumpy roads of Vietnam. I was quite shocked by the culture and the driving habits of motorists on the roads of Vietnam. It seems as though they use their blaring horns every other second to notify other motorists of their presence on the road. Then again, it was interesting to be on the right side of the road for a change.

As much as the roads in Vietnam were dreadful, the scenery, on the other hand, was beautiful. The road that we took passed by lots of mountains and hills. The view was the postcard-material kind the whole way. Talk about greenery at its finest.

We checked into the hotel late evening and had our dinner at a nearby restaurant. After that we walked to the very recently set-up World Vision office (that very day in fact) in the Mai Chau district 1km away for the briefing and introduction to the Mai Chau Area Development Programme. There we learnt about the different communes that were in the Mai Chau. There are a total of 23 communes and World Vision Vietnam has pinpointed the 5 poorest communes to partner with – Pu Bin, Noong Lung, Tan Dan, Tan Mai and Phuc San, and have begun to work with them. The two communes that we were planning to visit were Tan Mai and Pu Bin commune, where the poverty rate was estimated to be at 83% and 54% respectively. There, we were going to meet different families to learn about their struggles of living in poverty.

It was made known to us that these five communes were going through A&D, i.e. the Assessment and Design process. It is essential that World Vision build a good relationship and co-ordinate with the children, families and communities. This relationship had to be built over time to enable the workers to determine the source of poverty among the villagers and to decide on the best way  to utilise funds to help the villagers create a self-sustainable environment to live in.

That, in a nutshell, was my first day in Vietnam. We walked back to the hotel after the briefing and had a good rest, as we were all tired from a whole day of travelling. There was a spirit of anticipation in the air as we looked forward to the next few days, where we would truly step into the actual world of poverty.