Since 2006, Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation (VVAF) has worked closely with the Center for Children with Disability/Agent Orange, and Children of Disadvantaged Background, run the Da Nang Association of Agent Orange Victims (DAVA). It’s a rehabilitation, day-care and respite centers for children with disability. 100% of donations from individuals and organizations will go to the DAVA center to support the on-going activities, including rehabilitation, day-care, special education, vocational training for children with disability, home-based rehabilitation programs, support for parents/care-takers, funds for surgeries, wheelchairs; programs to train physical, occupational, and speech therapists.
Why VVAF and DAVA?
The Vietnam War polarized America, leaving in its wake more questions than answers, about a senseless war and the humans beings fractured by its destruction.
John Mueller and John Terzano established VVAF in 1978, to turn the experiences of the war into a mission of justice and compassion.
The Train Challenge team has had our share of adventures, but we’ve also witnessed the consequences of warfare while traveling in developing countries. At times, the balance of power just doesn’t seem fair.
With this partnership, we hope to give back to those who didn’t even choose a war or where they were born: children.
It’s children who are truly the future, whether it’s kids kicking a ball on a dirt field in Rwanda or soaking each other with water from a stream in Afghanistan.
A Bit of History
During the Vietnam War, from 1961 to 1971, U.S. military forces sprayed more than 20 million gallons of Agent Orange and other herbicides on forests and crops in southern and central Vietnam. The campaign had both human and environmental consequences. At least 4.5 million Vietnamese, and the 2.5 million Americans who served in Vietnam, may have been exposed to Agent Orange.
36 years after the war, harmful effects of Agent Orange/dioxin are still being felt by millions in Vietnam, including children. But this is a humanitarian concern we can do something about.
Da Nang Airport in the Da Nang City, central Vietnam, was one of the key US military bases where a large volume of herbicide were mixed, stored and used. The latest international studies confirm that the Da Nang Airport continues to be a significant dioxin hot spot. Immediate measures are taking place to contain spreading of dioxin from the Airport to the surrounding communities, and to provide medical services and support to children with disability associated with Agent Orange.
For a stark reminder of the Vietnam War, people living near the Da Nang airport in this central industrial city in Vietnam can still stroll along the old stone walls that once surrounded one of the biggest U.S. military bases in Vietnam. But Luu Thi Nguyen, a 31-year-old homemaker, needs only to look into the face of her young daughter.
VVAF representatives arrived at Ms Nguyen Thi Luu’s home at lunch time, her husband was out in market selling hard labor, and her second daughter was at kindergarten. She stayed at home to look after her five-year-old daughter Nguyen Thi Hong Van. Van was born with hydrocephalus, with an oversize head and a severely deformed mouth, and her upper body is covered in a rash so severe her skin appears to have been boiled.
Unlike her little sister, Van spends her days at home, playing by herself on the concrete floor because local school officials say her appearance frightens other children. Van helped her Mum to watch out for customers who buy home-made rice wine from Mum’s small shop.
According to Vietnamese medical authorities, she is part of a new generation of Agent Orange victims, forever scarred by the U.S.-made herbicide containing dioxin, one of the world’s most toxic pollutants.
Though neither Ms Nguyen Thi Luu nor her husband was exposed to the Agent Orange sprayed by U.S. forces from 1961 to 1971, officials say they believe the couple genetically passed on dioxin’s side effects after eating fish from contaminated canals.
“I am not interested in blaming anyone at this point,” the soft-spoken Nguyen said, stroking her daughter’s face. “But the contamination should not keep doing this to our children. It must be cleaned up.”
After doctors told them their daughter, Van, was an Agent Orange victim, Ms Nguyen Thi Luu cemented over the small garden in their front yard and stopped eating fish from nearby canals. Even now, however, many of their neighbors remain unaware of the danger.
“What could any of us do, anyway? It’s fate.” asked Ms Luu, whose family survives on the $1.50 a day her husband makes as a day laborer.
“None of us can afford to move. Now I know the soil is contaminated. My daughter has already suffered from this, and I worry about what this soil might still be doing to all of us.”
How to Give
Our fundraising goal is $10,000.
As readers and followers of the Train Challenge, we hope the urge to give inspires you as well.
There are two ways to donate.
Donations to VVAF can be made by check sent to:
The Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation Program
THE INTERNATIONAL CENTER
737 8th Street SE, Suite 202
Washington, DC 20003
Please note on the memo line that the donation goes to the project to support children with disability associated with Agent Orange. The International Center (which oversees VVAF programs in Vietnam) is recognized by the CRA (Canadian) and IRS (American) as a 501(c)(3) organization. Donations made to IC/VVAF are tax-deductible. If you would like a copy of IC/VVAF’s tax-exempt letter please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Or donate electronically by clicking on the image below. Note: the PayPal link is on the home page, left hand side:
Attached is an informational video on how the center operates:
We’ve appreciated your gung-ho support thus far, so help us instill some hope for these kids!