Vietnam Friendship Village

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The Vietnam Friendship Village was founded in 1992 by George Mizo, an American veteran of the Vietnam War who was interested in helping to repair the damage done to the Vietnamese people and to Vietnam-America relations by the war. The village was originally conceived of as a residence for orphaned children and elderly people suffering from the impact of Agent Orange. Collaboration between the Vietnamese, American, and German governments provided the land and funds necessary to build a medical building and several residences. The focus of the village has broadened, and it now provides residents with a variety of alternative health treatments, food grown in an onsite garden, and education in trades and crafts as well.[1]

The village is very focused on the children living there, not all of whom are orphans, but many whose parents cannot care for them adequately either due to the severity of their condition, their poverty, or the parents own related health problems. The children come from 43 provinces of Vietnam and have a variety of health problems, ranging from mental handicaps to physical deformities and sensory limitations. Many of the children are unable to continue in school either as a result of their mental or physical handicaps or because of teasing from other children. The Village provides them with a place to live, access to necessary medical care, and provides constant supervision for the children whose mental problems would otherwise lead them to endanger or harm themselves.

Although there is no formal school in the village, there are many courses that either teach the children vocational skills like sewing or artificial flower making, or give basic primary and secondary education. They are hoping to organize a signing class for the children with speech and hearing problems. Since it opened the village has had hundreds of children and veterans pass through on a rotating system. Those in dire need join the approximately 130 people living in the village, receive treatment, and if their condition permits, return to live with their families.

The village has many other initiatives beyond the direct care and education it provides to the children. It works toward self-sufficiency by cultivating much of its own food, raising pigs, chickens and geese, and growing a variety of fruits and herbs. The village has an assortment of vegetable gardens, some which allow residents to grow what they wish, and one which produces organics, satisfying the entire village’s need for vegetables. They sell additional fish and produce at market to provide funding for the project which they plan to expand to include more fish ponds and a compost heap with the goal of becoming totally self-sufficient within three years.

An award winning documentary on the Friendship Village was released in 2003.[2] Directed by Michelle Mason and produced by Cypress Park Productions, the film outlines George Mizo's story, the process that led to the creation of the village, and the vision and potential of the project.

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