Bethany Panchak (right) visits with a child in an orphange in 2013.
On Monday, May 18, a group of 20 students (occupational therapy, social work, education, anthropology, and communication) and two faculty members will depart for a humanitarian/service-learning trip to Vietnam. They will join staff members and sponsors from Brittany’s Hope, a non-profit organization that provides grants for international adoption of special needs children and works to improve the lives of orphaned children in Vietnam, Kenya, and Ethiopia. This trip occurs every other year, and you can learn more about past trips here.
During the 2½ week trip, the group will visit six different orphanages or centers and engage in a variety of projects that will benefit children and their local communities. One of the orphanages, the Thi Nghe Protection Center for Disabled Orphans in Ho Chi Minh City, exclusively cares for 400 children who have been abandoned due to having developmental, physical, and mental disabilities. While there students and faculty will provide training focused on positioning, sensory stimulation, and feeding techniques for the caregivers who look after these children. The group will also visit a Center for the Blind (Huynh De Nhu Nghia), Phanxico Nhan Hoa, a house for ethnic females, the Vocational Training Center in Danang (for adolescents with disabilities), and two other orphanages.
Eight of the 20 students embarking on this journey/adventure are occupational therapy majors. (Read about their reasons for making this trip after the photo below). The students are currently engaged in fundraising efforts to supply bicycles, adaptive feeding utensils, splinting materials, food care packages for needy families in the community, and sunflower bags. If you would like to know more about the trip or if you are interested in making a donation, follow this link: http://brittanyshope.org/trip/.
Fun sensorimotor play
“Every child deserves the opportunity to engage in meaningful occupations, fully participate in life, and live a life full of happiness. I am going on this trip to give the Vietnamese children a chance at this opportunity. I can’t wait to help the Vietnamese children and for them to completely change my life in the process.” ~ Jen Newman, Class of 2017
“Giving a child independence in life not only changes the child’s life but also the volunteer’s. I am going on this trip to assist and go through the journey towards bettering these children’s lives with them.” ~ Jess Shultz, Class of 2017
“I am going on this trip in order to have the opportunity to positively influence children’s lives. I feel as if this trip will be a life changing experience that is a once in a lifetime opportunity to travel while doing service work. Knowing I could possibly have a positive influence on one child’s life will make this trip all worth it!” ~ Megan Goss, Class of 2017
“I decided to go on this trip to help these children participate in all the occupations involved in being a kid. I believe this trip will help both their children and their caregivers to participate in leisure occupations.” ~ Jen Gallo, Class of 2017
“I am going on this trip to help play a part in improving the lives of the children and people in Vietnam. I want to provide these children with hope and the knowledge of their importance in both their society and the world at large. I am very excited to both help people and learn about a different culture.”~ Samantha Tobon, Class of 2017
“In May I was fortunate enough to go on a medical mission trip to Honduras and, ever since, have been longing for another opportunity to be submerged into a different culture and have a positive effect on such a large group of individuals. I’m going to Vietnam for the opportunity to expand my horizons, in both experience and knowledge, once again. Not only will I be able to see first hand the positive effects I am having on these children’s lives, but I will also be able to see myself grow as both as an individual and as a future Occupational Therapist.” ~ Adriana Bertolino, Class of 2017
“I want to go to Vietnam so that I will be able to gain useful experience working with children who have special needs. Also, I am excited to simply spend time with the children and give them as much love as possible. Vietnam seems to be an interesting country, and I am so grateful to have this opportunity to give what I can to the people. Additionally, I wish to soak in the culture so that I can take a step back from my own life and see what else is out there. I can’t wait to bring back my experience and thoughts from this trip to the U.S. as an American citizen, OT student, and human being.” ~ Allison Doughton, Class of 2016