I recently had the unique opportunity to visit Hanoi, Vietnam. It is a spectacular city in the heart of an incredibly diverse landscape. Amongst the hustle and bustle of motorbikes, mango venders, and hand-crafted textiles lies a small village that houses, feeds, and educates children who suffer the remaining genetic effects of Agent Orange from the Vietnam War. This home is called the Friendship Village.
The Friendship Village was founded by George Mizo, an American veteran of the Vietnam War, in 1988. Mizo’s experiences during the war inspired him to create the Friendship Village. After the war, Mizo explained that, “The horrible experiences during the war and the suffering of everybody on all sides inspired me to do something that would be a living symbol of peace, reconciliation and hope”.
The Friendship Village is doing all of the above and more. Not only does the village provide shelter and sustenance, the volunteers at the shelter assist in providing medical care, therapy, and vocational direction and training for over 150 children.
As if the services provided by the village volunteers aren’t enough, they also keep sustainability in mind when carrying out their compassionate mission. The food provided for the children who call the Friendship Village home, is grown in organic fruit and vegetable gardens. The garden is also inhabited by many different medicinal herbs. The village grounds are home to several species of farm animals and fish as well.
The volunteers of the Vietnam Friendship Village maintain a constant goal of sustainable service which is manifested in the smiles of hope and joy upon the faces of the residents. The village began in Vietnam, but outreach has spread to several countries around the world. Representatives can be found across the United States, France, Japan, Germany, and Canada. For more information on how to get involved in spreading awareness, donations, or visiting the Friendship Village, please visit vietnamfriendship.org.
Attached photos taken by Cassandra Galentine in October of 2011