Friendship Foundation of American Vietnamese

The Leprosy Village

By Volunteer Nick Ryan
Project Participant

Two thousand years ago, Jesus walked amongst people with Leprosy, healed them, loved them, and gave them hope. I'll admit that I am no Jesus, but I will also admit that I was as afraid as the people of Israel about maybe being infected and/or not being able to truly share with these people. Stupid huh!

When we arrived the elders of the community greeted us. As I shook hands with them, I felt the gnarled, hardened hands of some and the ?normal' hands of others! I could tell from one old fella that he was very happy as he vigorously shook my hands and hurried me along to the village area.

I realized too late that the bike's brakes were purely ornamental

I had to carry two big bags of clothes to the village that was quite a way away, so I stopped a young guy and borrowed his bike to cart this stuff! Well what an uproar! There were many surprised locals at this big hairy foreigner carting this stuff on one of the kids' bikes in the middle of nowhere. Then getting craftier still I balanced the gear on the bike enough to be actually able to ride the thing at the same time. No worries I thought until I realized too late that the bike's brakes were purely ornamental! A few hairy moments but managed to pilot the bike to the school where the kids were waiting for us with songs and dances and wide-eyed stares!

Together we sang songs and the Hokey Pokey proved again to be a crowd pleaser. Somehow during all the mayhem and chaos we managed to give out candy, stickers and badges.

After playing with the kids for a while, we lined them up and gave them a plastic bag each into which we stuffed a load of toys, clothes, stationary, and lollies! They were really excited and it was really fantastic to see these kids checking out their new booty from their makeshift Christmas stockings!

Then it was time to dish out the food and clothes to the adult population of the community. It was very humbling to see the gratitude of these people. Some of the villagers were missing digits but they grasped their bags with great energy. Others were so small and skinny I didn't think that they would be able to hold everything that we were giving. Afterwards I was giving away Christmas cards to people and I went up to yer man the truck driver and asked if I could have a drive on his traditional Vietnamese truck. This style of truck is very basic with a simple chassis with a hand-crank diesel engine. It had no apparent suspension, no power, no ten-stack CD player, but it was nonetheless a really neat vehicle. I even got into fourth gear, along the little track and nearly got bogged down in a rice paddy. No worries, mate!

During the rest of the afternoon, there was handing out more lollies, singing, volleyball, soccer, and other activities. People in both camps were pretty sad when the call was made to return to the bus. I doubled the old fella on the back of the bike and gave out lollies with him to the kids.

I felt a range of emotions when it was time to say goodbye. I was sad, humbled, grateful, happy, and better off. The fact that some of these people had leprosy did not even enter into the equation.

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