Walking through narrow alleyways where even the motorbikes would have their mirrors bent inwards by the walls. Retracing the steps afterwards, we would appreciated road markers left behind on the walls as we are getting lost. A maze within a small section of the town. We are in Phu Nhuan district, 5 minutes away from a large arterial road, in what seems a world apart. Do good. That’s the reason why we are here. To remind ourselves that in fact we have privileged lives that we often take for granted as there are many people in more dire situations than ourselves. To do what we often think and wish we should do. A first step. To give. Give to people less fortunate without expecting anything in return, except for the feeling of making someone happy. The smiles received are reward enough.
First stop is the 1st floor of a hairdresser. I have passed it many times. Even made a note to return with a camera and take a photograph of the mannequin heads that sometimes are on display. Impaled heads on a metal fence. All with various hair colours and lengths, used for practice by the staff. Today we enter the salon and venture upstairs. We meet the husband first, then his wife, lying on a mattress on the floor. In agony. She has incurable cancer. Dying from the inside, a bit more every day. Eventually she will leave behind her husband and two children. It is brutal. Time is limited and our small contribution will only help them subdue the pain for a short time, but can do nothing to stop the process. Even with means to help it will not be enough. It start to sink in how precious life is and how valuable every moment we have with loved ones really is.
Love and care is what we all crave and need. The infant inside the room, only a short walk away from the hairdresser, is being looked after by his mother. She happens to be an unmarried, single mother. The room is their home. It’s dark with hardly any light seeping in. Electricity cost money and thus saved by not being used. She needs all the help and support she can get.
Next stop is further inside. Between newly constructed houses and villas we arrive at metal gate. Through a small courtyard that doubles as motorbike parking space, we entered a small house, greeted by an elderly woman. The elderly woman has aged through hardship and not by time as she looks much older than her real age. She is looking after her son. He is in his twenties and stays at home with her. He’s standing by the window in a small room, shifting his weight back and forth. Only then do I notice the ankle chain. He is chained to the wall. To keep him safe. The woman says he is mad and dangerous to his surroundings. She has to keep him chained up. The motorbike parking is her only livelihood but her front yard cannot hold that many motorbikes.
Our journey continues, next stop, the local hospital. After spending time trying to figure out our given directions, we had to resort to a phone call as even the staff could not tell us the correct room. Once we received the additional information did we find our next person in need of some help. The old woman has respiratory troubles and is undertaking her treatment as we arrive. Through her face mask I notice how her eyes light up when hearing of our purpose for the visit. It means a lot to her. To us, in monetary terms, it is not much. Forgoing a meal out, and donate instead the value, and you have touched a heart immensely. It is a small token that we all can do. To share with a stranger in need.
We spend more time walking. This time we walk passed the house as it is too tiny to notice, sandwiched between two villas. It’s made of wood. Small, but still someone’s house and home. An elderly woman, living by herself, working hard to make a living. She normally sells her homemade goods in the evenings, something we did not know and we feel ashamed to have taken up her valuable sales time as we wanted to help and not be a burden to her.
Our last stop this evening is the local pagoda. It is with their help we have located the people in need. The day has been filled with mixed emotions of all the experiences we have had, however, knowing that we have done something that made a difference, no matter how small, it still is a difference and that feels good. It is good to get out of our normal comfort zone and our own daily routines and be useful, if only for a day.
I do know that I want to undertake this again and I also hope that more people will do the same, if only for a day a year.
If you cannot make a personal visit, please consider to fund a Kiva loan. This year, I made a resolution to issue a new loan of US$25 every month on Kiva and you can do so too here: http://www.kiva.org/invitedby/mads6766
For each person that follows that link and donate, Kiva will issue a bonus that can be used to issue even more loans. You can read about it here: http://www.kiva.org/bonus/learnmore
Even if everyone else is not doing good, I alone will.
Even if everyone else is doing wrong, I alone will not.