February 13, 2014

Francis Parker - Vietnam 2014

Day 3:  Hanoi

Our whole group expected today to be meaningful, as it was meant to be spent in service. However, it's safe to say that we were all surprised at just how many moments of unexpected beauty and fun there were. 

In the morning, some of us joined Mr. Taylor and Mr. Holbrook in walking and running around the city. The morning light lent a softness to the normally in-your-face colored advertisements, and the traffic had not worked itself up to its usual level of noise yet. As our group looped around a park, we passed men in blue robes practicing traditional Tai Chi--and teaching it to a group of French tourists. We loved starting our day like this, because it was a reminder that even in the most vibrant and chaotic places there can still be a sense of peace. 

This feeling continued a couple hours later when we arrived at the Peace Village, an institution for people affected by Agent Orange disease. All of the patients there have medical conditions ranging from epilepsy to deformed limbs as a result of the chemicals that American planes sprayed during the war. Our Hanoi University partners joined us in coloring and dancing with some of these children. They were incredibly sweet and smiley, and everyone had a lot of fun, but at the same time the experience was very sobering. It's the first time many of us have ever met  civilians who have been harmed by war, and it forced us to confront the past in a way that no museum ever could. 

We left the patients for our lunch break with our Hanoi University pen pals. Our conversations ranged from discussions of Vietnamese politics to our mutual love for American celebrities like Jennifer Lawrence. The Hanoi University student leader, Son, gathered us for some brain-teasing games that stumped everyone at first, then made us all burst with laughter as we gradually figured out his tricks. Many of us hadn't done activities like these since old summer camps, and we all loved bringing them back alonside our new friends. 

The students joined us on our bus and pointed out interesting features of the city as we drove to the United Nations International School of Hanoi. The patients of the Peace Village visit this school once a month to use the sports facilities and make art projects. We joined their games and coloring for a couple more hours of bonding, then said goodbye to them until tomorrow. We are so excited to visit the Peace Village again, because as we discovered today the best and most beautiful parts of this trip have been the moments of connection.  


Day 3:  Video Highlights

At the Peace Village, which provides medical treatment, therapy, and education to children affected by Agent Orange disease, everyone in the room enjoys the serenade of Hannah's singing abilities and piano skills while we sat and listened.

Here Peace Village children and Parker students dance and laugh together. Quite a lot of fun and energy, indeed!

Ms. Primrose, an English teacher at the United Nations International School, introduces the upcoming tour of the 25-year-old campus that we will be taking with our Hanoi University pen pals and some children from the Peace Village. Each month a UNIS community service group hosts a visit of Peace Village children. This unity of people all in the same room watching the same speakers trying to help the same cause in many ways reflected one of the most important goals of Francis Parker's trip to Vietnam: unity and bridging the gap.


Check out the videos here

Day 3:  Photo Highlights

Today we went to the Hanoi Peace Village to interact with people who are diagnosed with Agent Orange disease. Together with our Hanoi University pen pals, we drew pictures, danced the chicken dance, and even braided bracelets with the children.
Although the patients did not suffer from direct contact with the chemical, these are the later generations that have had their DNA fused with the poison and passed on to them from their parents. The Peace Village's main goal is to treat the children with physical therapy, acupuncture, and academic work. By stimulating their brains through activities, they hope that the young people will slowly recover to the point where they can return to their families, establish businesses with their families, or even have the opportunity to attend a university.
Together with the students of Hanoi University, we posed in front of the Peace Village.

After playing with the Peace Village children and eating lunch with the Hanoi University students, we bonded through series of games involving us attempting to learn and pronounce their names and vice versa. Some of the games we played also involved us trying to solve patterns that Sunh, a student of Hanoi University, presented to us.

This is the United Nations International School in Hanoi. This unexpected visit allowed us to bond with the Agent Orange patients more. This school is a lot like Parker with lower, middle, and upper schools and around 1,100 students in total. At this school, there is a community service club that hosts Peace Village patients once a month. After touring the school, we split into groups to play soccer and do art projects with the children.

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