Day 4 of the Tour of the Central Highlands of Vietnam – Orphanages of Kon Tum
Today we wouldn’t be moving on but instead we planned to visit the two orphanages in Kon Tum and see some of the local minority villages. First stop after breakfast was at a toy shop where we picked up a load of footballs, skipping ropes and other toys for the children at the orphanages. Next stop was a stationers to get pens, pencils, exercise books, sharpeners, etc to leave with the teachers and then finally to a sweet shop at the market for bags full of “goodies”.
Vinh Son II Orphanage
Tam collected us and took us to the Vinh Son 2 orphanage, the poorer of the two in Kon Tum. At first I could have cried seeing how poor the children were yet they were happy and were being looked after by the volunteers here. The sister who ran the place is 68 years old and had been working there since she was 18. The children were very friendly and obviously enjoyed having visitors. They played football in the yard with us and all came onto the patio to sing a song.
The sister showed us around the very poor facilities including a garden area where they grow their own food. Last year a case of chicken flu was detected and all the birds were destroyed. The children take responsibility from a very early age, the boy baking the bread looked about seven years old but all the children look younger than they are so maybe he was about ten. My height was again a source of amusement to the girls in the kitchen (see photo below).
Just outside the orphanage is a minority village where we walked around handing sweets to the children. Interestingly no child would ever take a 2nd sweet when offered and always made sure that the children smaller than them had one and helped them remove the wrapping if they couldn’t manage. What a difference from the western world! Although these children had their families you could only think that they were worse off than the ones in the orphanage. In Vinh Son II there is education and hope whilst here there is no possible future for children and no likelihood of change.
Vinh Son I Orphanage
The Vinh Son I orphanage appears better off with nicer buildings and a wooden church but it is still very poor. Here we only saw baby orphans which is even more heartbreaking. Strangely the babies never seemed to cry presumably because their tears have never attracted any attention.
We visited another minority village where a man invited us onto his terrace where he played a traditional musical instrument for us. He seemed delighted that we’d dropped by. A final port of call today was Nguc Kon Tum, a park on the river which used to be a prison for captured VC soldiers. Prisoners who were released from there in 1975 were hailed as war heroes.
For dinner tonight Phu and Tam took us to another great local place for beef and tofu hotpot consumed to the toast of “yo” with every swig of Saigon beer. The banana fritters from a street seller on the way home were a great dessert.