James, a 17 year-old Australian student, volunteered for four days at YWAM Mercy Vietnam’s Ba Vi Children’s Home as part of earning his Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award. James is of Malaysian and Vietnamese ancestry. He spent time getting to know and playing with the children as well as teaching them English. He enjoyed the experience of living at the Children’s Home and the chance to learn more Vietnamese language and culture. James and the children really bonded during this time.

The children said they learned the following principles for life in their time with James:
1. Be sociable.
– James took the initiative to speak to us children and there was no nervousness or self-consciousness between us.
– He took part in all activities (shopping with our Home-mother, cooking and cleaning house together) with a friendly and learning attitude.
2. Try to understand others.
– His Vietnamese is not strong, but he is very creative using a dictionary to find the meaning of words that he is not sure of while teaching English to us or when we were communicating.
3. Keep promises.
– One day before going home James took photographs and promised to draw each of us. Even though he was tired and not feeling well at that time, he didn’t take a nap after lunch in order to keep his promise. We were so happy with his drawings and felt his special love for us.
4. Be truly interested in everyone.
– James helped us in doing our English homework. He found common interests we could share. He is like the biggest brother in our Home and saw when he could help us with heavy work such as cutting firewood, carrying heavy things, and such.
– One time, a child said that she liked the Dedenne character in the Pokemon cartoon. James knew this character and drew its picture for her. She was very surprised and touched at his kindness.

5. Be willing to yield to others.
– James plays badminton well but he never used the balk (feint) or other difficult shots in order to let us follow and play together.
6. Follow the rules to take care of shared space.
– We have a new house and we want to take care of it but sometimes we forget the rules and do as we have done in the past. In only one week living in Home, James remembered to carefully follow the rules. We learned to take care to follow them too by watching him. For example: he never wore inside slippers outside, never set his slippers on other’ slippers, and always put his slippers on the shoe-shelf.
7. Respect what others love.
– The night before his last day, we folded paper cranes and starfish for him. He cherished our gifts, keeping them carefully in his suitcase.
8. Be independent.
– When we saw he had a cough, headache, and a bit of a temperature, we asked him, “Are you sick?” He said, “No.” We found that he took medicine and rested so we see he has ability to take care of himself and didn’t want to make us worried.
– He made his bed immediately after getting up without a reminder from our Home-mother or us.
9. Be tolerant.
– Some boys made noise and shook the tables while James was drawing, he lightly reminded them 4 or 5 times and said that he will talk with Mom Oanh if they didn’t stop. When they broke his pencil broken, he still kept smiling and encouraged us that it’s ok and warning us to be more careful not to break other people’s things.
10. Be kind.
– At the last dinner he spent the whole time with us despite missing his family so much. He knew our sorrow that he was leaving but he encouraged us that he will try to come back Vietnam to visit us next year.

After only 4 days living with him, James made Mom Oanh and us love him for his good character and his living style. He is our eldest brother and a role model for us. He is our family member. Mom Oanh and we children love him so much. We will miss him and will be happy if he can come back here next year.

Ngan and Dung (paraphrased)

When it was time for me to go, I was given all sorts of gifts by the children and said a teary goodbye. I am both incredibly glad and blessed that I had the opportunity to meet and be a part of the lives of these children, and somehow feel terribly sad and powerless that I couldn’t do anything more for them. I can say from the bottom of my heart that this was a great trip and the experience that came with it is something I wouldn’t trade for anything. I would recommend it to anyone willing to both serve and learn, just a little, about the real Vietnam.

James himself

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