Our Charity Sponsor Announcement!


You’ve heard about the challenge.  You know the players.  Did you also know we aren’t just doing it for ourselves?

We’ve decided to partner with the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation to raise funds for a charity near and dear to their hearts: Da Nang Association of Agent Orange Victims .

kids at DAVA center in da nang, vietnam

Smiling kids at DAVA

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.Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation logo

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.

Personal Story

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.

Agent Orange child victim in vietnam

Little Van

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.

Da Dang Children's charity example child

Van playing

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.

One of our generous sponsors, Eurail, will donate $10.00 for every ticket sold through the Ultimate Train Challenge website or each blogger’s website.

As readers and followers of the Train Challenge, we hope the urge to give inspires you as well.

Getting rehabilitation at the center

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 tgriffiths@ic-vvaf.org.

Or donate electronically by clicking on the image below.  Note: the PayPal link is on the home page, left hand side:

Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation logo

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!

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16 Responses to Our Charity Sponsor Announcement!

  1. Lorna - the roamantics July 13, 2011 at 11:48 pm #

    i am absolutely IN LOVE with the fact that you’re all doing this!!! my dad is a vietnam vet. he was in da nang from 65-69 as a marine and i went there in 2009 to be where he’d been. but that was a ridiculous attempt- i’ll never have any clue. i drove all around on a motorcycle and flew out of da nang airport without any more clarity than what i came with. i’m hoping you’ll exceed your goal with lightening fast speed and that many beautiful children will benefit from your amazing effort. :D

    • Jeannie Mark July 19, 2011 at 3:36 pm #

      Ever the adventurous lady. :) Sounds like your father has some stories of his own to tell. We’re amazed at the positive legacy that VVAF is trying to cultivate and are excited to be part of that. :)

  2. lara dunston July 19, 2011 at 10:43 am #

    A wonderful cause and a wonderful sponsor. Fantastic stuff, guys – good on you! Can’t wait for your trip to get underway. Good luck!

    • Jeannie Mark July 19, 2011 at 3:34 pm #

      Thanks! We are humbled to be helping them. I’m looking forward to meeting the kids.

  3. Federico July 19, 2011 at 5:04 pm #

    A great cause, and so good you are making people aware of this.

    • Jeannie Mark July 20, 2011 at 3:46 pm #

      Thanks! We are proud to be working with them!

  4. Margo July 20, 2011 at 3:44 pm #

    Congratulations on working for such a great cause, and look forward to supporting your efforts and following along!

    • Jeannie Mark July 20, 2011 at 3:47 pm #

      We can use the support and any way to spread the word about our sponsor, is much appreciated! Cheers!

  5. Randy July 22, 2011 at 1:20 am #

    Wow, great sponsor guys! Definitely will help get the word out about this. Beth and I are both really excited for you guys and can’t wait to follow along!

    • Jeannie Mark August 1, 2011 at 3:50 pm #

      We would be so grateful, that in SE Asia, I might be persuaded to buy you a few beers!

  6. Theodora July 24, 2011 at 7:22 am #

    Great choice of partner. Agent Orange victims are extremely visible, not only in Vietnam but also in Cambodia and Laos (the even-more-forgotten victims of that conflict), and I’m glad you’re going to be supporting them.

    • Jeannie Mark August 1, 2011 at 3:51 pm #

      Couldn’t agree more! I also saw the same when traveling there several years ago. Please spread the word or link if you can!

  7. Natalie August 11, 2011 at 9:12 am #

    A great choice of charity. Can’t wait for the trip to start. Well done to all of you.

    • Jeannie Mark August 13, 2011 at 6:43 pm #

      Thanks Natalie! We are excited to help them!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Trans-Mongolian Railway Conquered in the Ultimate Train Challenge Go, See, Write - overland travel adventures - August 11, 2011

    [...] with a great charity in Vietnam and are trying to raise $10,000 for them as part of our challenge. Here is the link you can click through and read about it on the Train Challenge website. Please take fiveminutes, go read about them, and if you are financially able, please make a [...]

  2. » Mid-Point of the Ultimate Train Challenge, #UTC11 Update and Plea for Help » Go, See, Write - overland travel adventures - September 19, 2011

    [...] have partnered with the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation (VVAF) to help children suffering from disabilities in Da Nang, [...]

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