Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Charitable Retirement

--Feature: "The Humanitarian Brief w/ Need Magazine"--

Amazing, exhausting, and heart-warming: that’s how I would describe my week visiting the programs conducted by Children of Vietnam (COV), the Children’s Culture Connection-represented charity that supports Vietnamese children in need.

Children of Vietnam, which just celebrated its 10th anniversary, was started by a man named Ben Wilson as he was facing retirement after a long corporate career. According to Ben, he didn’t play golf and was worried that he wouldn’t have enough to do to keep busy. So, at 65 years old, he started COV.

After seeing how many ways his organization is impacting the lives of children in need, I can confidently say that Ben does NOT need to worry about being bored.

In less than a week, we have visited orphanages and kindergartens where COV provides everything from new buildings and structural renovations to food and milk programs. We have visited sick and disabled children who suffer from blindness, missing limbs, deformities, and the effects of Agent Orange used in the Vietnam War, and seen how COV is providing them with medical assistance and limb prostheses. We have visited children living with their families in tin-roofed shacks wrapped in plastic bag siding that COV is replacing with permanent houses. (Something like Extreme Home Makeover…only a lot more extreme, to say the least.)

We have visited schools funded by COV, witnessed their tutoring programs that help high school kids get into college, and we gave new bicycles to 19 kids in a village school. Now that they can get to and from school faster and spend more time helping support their family farms, they won’t have to drop out.

Finally, we watched as four peasant families were told that they won’t have to watch their kids die of heart complications because COV has raised the money to pay for their surgeries. Not a dry eye in the house during this event.

Honestly, I can’t begin to describe the impact this organization is having on the lives of so many children. I am truly humbled.

As a country, Vietnam is wonderful, and not just because it is 75 degrees warmer than Minnesota right now. The countryside is beautiful, the people friendly and hospitable, and they are working hard to improve their lives despite the hardships of life in the Third World and the lingering after-effects of the war. But the most wonderful part of all is the energy and love that radiates off of the children no matter how dire their situation is. It is truly a privilege for Children’s Culture Connection to support COV in their efforts and I can’t imagine a week better spent.

It is a good thing that Ben Wilson doesn’t play golf.

Children of Vietnam
c/o Mr. Ben Wilson
817 West End Boulevard
Winston Salem, NC 27101

(Pictured Above: Ben Wilson in Vietnam)

No comments: