Yesterday morning we got going early and we were on a mission – to track down and chat with the founder of an organization here in Hoi An called The Kianh Foundation to see if this organisation would be a good fit to donate money to through the Six Backpacks fundraising effort. We hired 4 bicycles with map in hand and set off. First stop breakfast – pineapple pancakes with chocolate sauce and banana pancakes with honey. YUM!
After a couple of last minute shopping stops, wrong turns and minor melt-downs in the middle of the road, we arrived at the Kianh Foundation office in downtown Hoi An. We were hot and bothered, Ashley was still on the other side of the road with her bike struggling to get to the other side. So it took us a while to get organized and chain the bikes together. As all this was occurring, I saw a lady leave out the front door. It didn’t occur to me that she was the founder leaving for lunch and would be back at 2pm.
So back outside, unchain the bikes, more complaints from the kids. We decided to visit Dingo Deli towards Cua Dai beach – air conditioned, easy food for the kids and a bit of a break from the street hustle. We thought lets just get there and decide what to do next.
And as destiny would have it happen, who’s sitting eating lunch at Dingo Deli? Bingo…the founder and director of The Kianh Foundation, Jackie. We were quickly introduced to her by Michele who has owned and operated Dingo Deli now for 2 years. What a jackpot.
After lunch we had a business meeting with her about how she started, what she does and what she really needs. An amazing woman, originally from Liverpool in UK, she travelled around and stopped in Hoi An and visited an orphanage that was full of disabled kids in dirty, dank conditions. One boy who hadn’t lost his spirit showed her around the orphanage and his name and spirit was forever honored by Jackie by naming her foundation after him.
She ended up volunteering at the orphanage trying to get these kids out of their squalid conditions and into programs that would assist them living a better life. It frustrated her over the years watching the corruption and lack of progress at the orphanage. That was 4 years go, and now she has built her own day centre (funded by RMIT) for kids who have Down Syndrome and Cerebal Palsy and provides training for teachers and assistants for the 5 classrooms and 1 physiotherapy room. Jackie herself, adopted a disabled Vietnamese boy. Her centre provides special education, physiotherapy and speech therapy to an endless demand. Right now she needs a teaching assistant for her classrooms and child sponsors. So we crunched some numbers over coffee.
Graduate teacher – $223/month or $2677/year
Teaching assistant – $169/month or $2024/year
Classroom aid – $152/month or $1822/year
Child sponsorship – $60/month
It really is an absolute basket case out there when it comes to finding the right people with the right organizational skills and influence to make kids with disabilities here in Vietnam better. Right now Jackie is assisting a poor, remote area just outside of Hoi An that was saturated with agent orange and many other warfare chemicals during the war and it has the highest incidence of Down Syndrome and other disabilities. We are very impressed with her. The Kianh Foundation does not let foreigners peruse through their centre. It’s not a zoo. It enables these kids to have a safe haven, some consistency in their life without creating attachment issues.
Here are the Kianh Foundation’s website and a Facebook page under the same name. www.kianh.org.uk
So meeting over, Jackie left to return to her office and we jumped back on our bikes and returned to the hotel for a dip in the pool and chat about the opportunities available to us to help these particular kids in this area.
PS I think I’m on the edge of creating a little marketing niche where I get to find and match people who have money to share and the people who will accept it and make a difference with it. Sound good?