TRIP TO VIETNAM 11-24 March 2024

In March 2024 I had the opportunity to travel to Vietnam with Sr Smitha to visit some of RNDM communities and projects. As soon as we arrived we were welcomed at Ho Chi Minh airport by two sisters. The heat was scorching! After meeting the team at the provincial house and after some rest, I started exploring the big compound where there are different communities: novitiate, students’ house, house for the elderly sisters and the provincial house. The first mission we visited was Suoi Tuong where nearly 300 poor migrant families from Cambodia live on floating houses. This is a new mission where the sisters teach approximately 30 children belonging to fishermen’s families on a “floating classroom” built by the sisters. We sat on a boat and were taken to the floating “school”. It was amazing to see how the children were happy to be there, interested to learn and make a change in their life. They were very excited to see us and welcomed us very warmly. After two hours of schooling they took their own boat and returned to their homes. We also visited two families who live in very poor conditions. Their houses are so bare and it is incredible for us to understand how they can cope. Not far from the village, the sisters run a primary school with 6 classrooms where they teach 142 children for free; these children are also belonging to migrant families.
In Thach An community the sisters run a kindergarten with 300 children. In the evening we visited a very poor young family where the 37-year old husband, due to a car accident occurred 8 years ago, is now completely paralyzed. They have 3 children and the mother is struggling to find ways to make a living and support the children’s studies. I was really touched by this experience and find it hard to express my feelings.
After that we paid a short visit to Tan Binh shelter for single mothers. There were 5 young women with their children. It was very touching to see them and sad to think these girls had to leave their homes because parents could not accept the situation. The sisters care for them and the environment is very joyful and pleasant. We also had the opportunity to see the house where 22 temporary professed sisters live. They were so happy to meet with us!
After a few days, we took a sleeping bus and travelled for eight hours to Vinh Trang where we stayed two days. There are 39 girls from 10 different tribes in the boarding house. They study at high school and help teaching catechism in the parish. They are happy to live and study in the sister’s compound. The sisters also do some pastoral ministry at the parish and more than 100 tribal children are gathered for different activities each morning! We had the chance to visit some families in the village. It was really moving to see how children live with very little and yet they are so joyful. From Vinh Trang we travelled by car to Nha Trang, near the seaside, where the sisters have a community and a kindergarten with 210 children. In the same town, the sisters run a free hostel for 53 girls aged 10-12. We spent a very pleasant afternoon with them; they performed for us and then we had a very pleasant conversation and sharing with them. All of them shared their dreams for the future and were very interested in asking questions.
Next trip was to Dalat at 1500 meters t above sea level. From the bus, I could see how the vegetation changed from tropical palm trees, banana, mango trees, cashew nuts, coffee plantation to pine trees, strawberry fields, ferns… The temperature also changed: it was much cooler when we reached the community house! There are 13 postulants living and studying here and the sisters also run a kindergarten. The next day we visited Nam Ban Community for the day. There is a hostel with 16 girls and 3 boys. We also visited the village where thanks to our benefactors, new sanitation facilities were built for 16 families, living in very poor conditions.
The next day we moved on to Long Dien after a 7-hour bus trip. This community runs a boarding house for 84 ethnic girls and 3 boys. They were also very welcoming and performed for us.
Not far from the community, the sisters have a social development project in a village where 300 families live below the poverty line. The sisters help setting up their kitchen garden, manage livestock. There is still a lot to do to help these people.
Our final visit was to Minh Hung community where the sisters run a boarding house with 47 girls and boys as well as a kindergarten with 123 children.
Our trip was coming to an end and I knew I was going to miss all this. Vietnamese people are so gentle, welcoming and generous. I have learnt a lot. I will never forget all the people I met, the love and dedication of the sisters, the hugs of the children, their happy smiles, their dreams and aspirations for a better future. There were tears of sorrow and tears of joy. I feel so enriched by this trip and I will be forever grateful for this wonderful opportunity. For me, this was not only a working trip but a precious gift and an exploration into my deeper self which makes me more aware of how lucky we all are at this end of the world. This awareness strengthens me and encourages me to be more attentive to the needs of less fortunate people and share about my experience.
Silvia Mazzenga
Rome, 17.04.2024

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