The Christina Nobles Sunshine Centre is a social and medical centre for children who are either orphaned or from disadvantaged backgrounds. It homes up to 80 sick children until they are well enough to either go back to a children’s home (orphanage) or to their disadvantaged family. The majority are sent back to the children’s home. The Sunshine Children come in with malnutrition, hydrocephalus, cerebral palsy and are usually mentally or physically impaired and need 24-hour care from the centres’ doctors, nurses and carers. The centre also consists of an outpatient clinic and a school providing refuge from danger and poverty. Directly across the street from the centre lies a British International School. The children there are chauffeur driven. The fees for this school are €500 per week per child.
Last year, Naomi Cullen, who lives in Kinsale, spent two months working in Christina Nobles Sunshine Centre in Ho Chi Minh city. She says there is a need for Irish families to explore their options of adopting children from Vietnam.
During my work at the Centre, I spent my mornings in the Intensive Monitoring with 20 babies. The nurses and carers are occupied by medicating and feeding the babies so my job as a volunteer was to play with and love the children. In the afternoons I spent my time in what they call ‘Hoa Mi’, a name for a Vietnamese singing bird. In Hoa Mi there are 30 cots where the children sleep and a separate play room. These children are aged between two and four years. Once again my role here was to play with the children and love them.
Being a lover of the outdoors, I decided early on that my aim over the eight weeks was to take as many children outside, as often as possible. I remember the first time I took two of the babies out. I sat them on the outdoor tiled porch area rather than the concrete yard. I took out some bubbles with me. I was so excited to watch their reaction with the bubbles because I guessed they had never seen them before. To my surprise they had absolutely no interest in the bubbles and were more interested in watching the leaves blow on a nearby tree. This highlighted to me even more how many of these children might not have been outside for a very long time.
Naturally I bonded with some children quicker than others. It broke my heart to leave behind one child in particular. Her name is Thao. Thao is four and reminds me of the girl who had a little curl. One minute she was sitting on my knee rubbing my sweaty face with her hands (it was extremely hot over there) and the next she would fire a toy at my head from across the other side of the room. Thao was one of the eldest in her room. I could see from her behaviour that she was bored and not in the environment she needed she needed for her growth and development. I made sure to take Thao outside every day for as long as I could. I used to watch her walk around the yard with her legs spread and arms out to give her balance while she ran around loving the freedom and looking back at me in a ‘can’t believe that strange white women isn’t even holding my hand’ kind of way. She became so happy. I loved playing with her and watching her develop over the few weeks gave me great pleasure. On the last day I gave all the children a piece of a Rice Krispie Bun. I couldn’t wait to give Thao hers. She spat it out and fired it at a wall in disgustment. I guess it was just too different from her daily intake of what was usually rice of some sort.
Since I have returned, I get text messages filling me in on the progression of the children; when they return to their children’s home or if they have been adopted. Thao has been sent back to a home. Although the children are sheltered and fed in these homes, they still do not meet their needs. It saddens me to think of Thao growing up without a family of her own. A mum or Dad to love her and siblings to encourage and play with her. Thao has Downs Syndrome and because of this she is less likely to be adopted in Vietnam. Apart from her mismatch of chromosomes, Thao is a beautiful, clever, fun and loving young child.
Please consider the joy and fun a child like Thao would bring to your family. For more information on adopting children from Vietnam please email: firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to read my full blog on my work in Vietnam visit www.thenannyagency.ie.
Pictured: Naomi Cullen with Thao.