Onward and upward!
I have been fully engaged and otherwise deeply focused on my volunteering pursuits and involvement with the Francis Shelter (FS) for nearly 3 years now! The FS, located on an obscure back road in Dong Nai, is a refuge and a home to 107 mentally and physically handicapped children and adults, (orphans, displaced and / or abandoned men, women and seniors) and the 11 or so regular caregivers that provide and care for their bare bones, basic needs and slave many hours day after day to fulfill them.
The extremely short staffed and drastically underpaid caregivers are mainly unskilled and the care they provide although extremely genuine and loving, is totally inadequate and sub-standard at best. Many residents are restrained for hours and days upon end, some are locked down in cage like cells or placed in grossly inhumane overfilled, stark and dreary empty rooms. One on one focused attention, learning or educational options, activities, exercise, therapeutic, medical and dental treatments are sporadic at best (at least until just recently). Despite our collective efforts many residents are still living substandard lives and suffer unnecessarily. It is a very sad situation, the needs are endless and change is long overdue.
The awareness and mindset regarding the value and worth of the handicapped will have to shift, as many people in developing countries including government officials have a throw away attitude about the handicapped.
As the Program Director of the Francis Shelter – Volunteer Group (FS-VG)! I’m responsible for volunteer recruitment, program development (work / study programs, basic caregiving trainings, conversational English classes, special projects/events, to mention a few). I also contribute to our fund raising projects and events and I’m an acting board member of our FS-VG board of directors.
I visit the shelter usually 2 days a week and while I’m there I offer massage and basic physical therapy treatments, exercise support, compassionate touch, conversational English classes and do my best to connect with as many of the residents as I can. Many other volunteers offer their own version of the same.
The rest of the week I reside in Saigon and spend most of my time connecting with fellow volunteers and associates, discussing shelter affairs, developing programs, planning or preparing for upcoming events and organizing visits or volunteer work days at the shelter, etc., etc.
I also respond to inquiries and emails from the growing number of FS supporters and / or volunteer candidates from all over the planet.
The meaning and depth of my life, the mission and purpose it’s cultivated within in me. Fills me with encouragement that one day my presence and position along with other’s and the good works we’re creating/initiating will one day stimulate a real and lasting difference in the standards of care and the quality of life for the entire FS Community.
One of the ways we’re hoping to achieve our goals is by raising enough funds through a new “Go Fund Me” campaign (gofundme.com/francisshelter), to train and hire 4 additional regular caregivers. The new staff members will work and assist at the shelter in a full time capacity. With your generous support and caring donation we hope raise $12,000 to cover the new caregivers salaries for one entire year. Having the extra physical support on the ground and in the trenches at the shelter will be a God send and will make a real and immediate difference in the lives of the residents.
In May 2016, Dr. Andrew Tsang, Director of the Westcoast International Dental Clinic in Saigon organized and participated in a Dental Mission of Mercy on behalf of the Francis Shelter community. When Dr. Andrew arrived at the FS, along with 2 other dentist and 2 dental nurses from the clinic, they promptly set up a mobile clinic and proceeded to open up shop. Within minutes they were attending to the emergency dental needs of over 20 residents who were in pain or otherwise chronically suffering from dental related disorders.
Dr. Andrew was pleased with the logistical support and backup he received from the regular caregivers at the shelter and from visiting volunteers from the Francis Shelter – Volunteer group. Everything was synchronized with military precision and went smoothly and the first ever Dental Mission of Mercy being offered at the FS was a smashing success.
Dr. Andrew has promised to return to the shelter 2 – 3 times a year at his own expense to continue his volunteer work and to support the Francis Shelter community with regular exams, treatments, training and general dentistry. What an amazing contribution! What a gift for the entire SF shelter community.
If enough people care about the handicapped at the FS, like Dr. Andrew and the Westcoast International Dental Clinic crew, then together we can make a sustainable difference in their lives.
Thank you for taking the time to read about the situation at the Francis Shelter and for your generous contributions and energetic support.
Many Thanks and Blessings,
Program Director * Francis Shelter – Volunteer Group
If you’d like to learn more about the Francis Shelter, feel free to click on the following link www.francisshelter.org