Tag Archive: Brandon Ng

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.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.