The government operates leprosy communities that appear to have dorm rooms and community rooms. We take gifts to the members of these communities – which Kim Dung calls camps. The gifts are basic and practical: a thermal sweatshirt and pants with the SARA logo and name on them, a small bag of rice, some cooking oil, a bag of candy and some “lucky money”, 50,000D – about $2.50, but with the buying power in the USA of about $25.
Everyone gets the same gift and they are extremely grateful. They are grateful that someone would come to see them, grateful for the gifts, grateful that someone would look them in the eye and treat them with personal dignity. It seemed that the residents we visit are all treated well, in general. Kim insists on delivering the gifts personally. She has visited most if not all of these communities many times in the past. We saw jackets and mattresses that she had delivered years ago and are still in use.
When we arrived at the camp on this day, at first it seemed that we would not be able to visit the residents. The operators insisted on a few days notice, but Kim negotiated with them and explained that she had called and that no one got back to her. There was some discussion about the accuracy of the phone number, but I wasn’t sure, it was all in Vietnamese. In the end we were allowed to go from room to room to deliver gifts to those who physically could not leave their rooms. Then the rest of the residents all came to a large social hall where speeches were made and the operators of the camp made a point to thank us for our help. We passed out all the remaining gifts for that camp and made some endearing connections.
Some of the Catholic residents wanted to show us something special. We walked down a long path to find a Catholic Chapel in which Mass could be celebrated. We didn’t have time to celebrate Mass that day, but it showed the government’s openness to more cooperation with communities of faith.
Then we drove to the convent of some of the Sisters of Our Lady of Unity who operate a home for disabled children. We visited the children and the sisters provided us with dinner. We gave them a donation to support their ministries and we were on our way back to Bắc Ninh.
Kim is able to connect very quickly with the residents of the leprosy community. Some remember her from previous years.
Kim telling the residents how happy we are to be with them and that we come to share God’s love with them.
I really connected with this little boy who was laying on a mattress on the floor. These children couldn’t speak, so my lack of Vietnamese did not hinder my ability to communicate.