Humanitarian tour 2015

The Artists for Orphans  Fundraiser at the Kyneton Town Hall was a great success. We had a full house and there were a lot of shenanigans while being entertained by Comedian Elliot Goblet, the legendary Marcie Jones and the fabulous Vi-Queenz! (You have to see these gals!) The art donated this year was of an incredibly high standard and we raised approximately $20,000.00. THANK YOU to all the artists, volunteers, sponsors and all who attended!


All in A Days’s Work!

A month traveling around Vietnam to assess potential charitable projects for Kyneton’s Artists for Orphans proved to be unexpectedly adventurous for Marcie Jones, Ruby Wilson and me!

To meet bomb victims we support through Project Renew, we traveled for 12 hours on a train with a monkey and a dog. Then we undertook a two-hour road trip through some beautiful countryside, walked across a stream where water buffalo were sunbathing, up to a muddy hill and finally climbed a flimsy bamboo ladder. All this effort was to meet a young man who at 17 years of age lost his leg to an undetonated bomb while planting coffee. His tribe is an ethnic minority tribe in Vietnam called Van Kieu or the Montagnard and they live in the Huong Hoa District in Quang Tri Province.


11 November 2015 Although his family of nine live in dire poverty in a simple hut constructed from bamboo, the family took us into their home and proudly shared a feast they had prepared for us. It consisted of black rice, boiled chicken’s feet and a mysterious stew concoction which we decided to leave for the family to enjoy. In this tribe, the young men usually marry at 14 or 15 but for this sad young man who is now an amputee at 20, there is no wife. He explained that because of his family’s poverty and his disability, he cannot find a wife. Then he tells us that his prosthetic leg is broken and Toan, the representative from Project Renew, agrees to provide him with two new legs. One for walking around and a special “peg” leg for climbing up the mountain where he works behind his shack. It was an unusual meeting and we felt very honored to be the recipients of such generous hospitality.

Another long drive brings us to the home of a man who is a triple amputee. He has lost both legs and his right hand. Like many others, he was scavenging for scrap metal which can bring in as much as $2.00 per day, when he unearthed an undetonated bomb. When he greets us at the door he has two sandbags strapped the stumps where his legs once were. He explains that when he is at home, it’s easier for him scoot around like this rather than wearing his prosthetic legs.


We are invited into his modest home and offered tea. Immediately we notice there is no door and the wooden shutters for windows are all but rotted away. This man, his wife, and two young children live in the mountains and 11 November 2015 the winters can be cold. After talking with the man via Toan, we offer to inseminate two of his cows. (Not personally. A veterinarian will do the honors) and to buy him shutters for his hut and a door, which is currently a piece of wood left over from the war standing up against the opening. We leave treats and candy for the children and say goodbye.

The last stop for the day is the home of a family devastated by Agent Orange. The parents had two healthy children before the father went to war and was exposed to the chemical Agent Orange. The US Military used Agent Orange as a defoliant and sprayed more than 19 million gallons of the deadly herbicide over 4.5 million acres of land in Vietnam from 1961 to 1972.  The dioxin contained in this chemical is one of the deadliest known to man. After the war and the husband’s consequent exposure to Agent Orange, the couple had four more children and all four were disabled. Before arriving at their modest home, we are told that one of the daughters, in her 20s, had passed away. She was severely disabled from Agent Orange.

When we arrived, the altar had candles and incense burning but it was not for the daughter we knew had died. It was for a second daughter who had also passed away. The father met us at the door and we lit incense and placed it on the altar. Shortly after the mother appeared. She was a ghostly apparition in the candlelight. Her grief was palpable. Then she took the three of us into an adjoining room where her third daughter lay on a bed without a mattress watching the small television set next to her bed. She was curled up into a tight ball and her fists were 11 November 2015 clenched tight. Her legs were matchstick thin. She cannot walk or communicate. Her mother fusses over her, stroking her head, rearranging her pillow and light sheet covering her frail body. If they turn the TV off, she will scream.

The mother looks at us and tells the interpreter she has just been diagnosed with heart disease. It’s obvious that she is worried for her daughter if anything should happen to her. She did not surrender her four disabled children to an orphanage, instead she opted to care for them all herself and it has taken its toll. For our part, we stood silently and in awe of the this mother who has lost two daughters and knows somewhere in her heart that she will lose this daughter too.

The girl looks young, perhaps 16 but the mother tells us she is 28. During the trip we also met with Son Michael Pham, our partner from Kids Without Borders in the USA and his band of Seattle Rotarians, Chuck Searcy from Project Renew in Ha Noi, Robert and Hien Costabile from Lanterns (charitable) Restaurant in Nha Trang, the Directors of Go Vap Orphanage, Thanh Xuan Peace Village and Ba Vi Orphanage. And we visited other various orphanages. Along with a group of Rotarians from Seattle and Son Michael Pham, we had the honour of meeting with the US Ambassador Ted Osius who was nominated for his ambassadorship by Barack Obama and made history by being the first gay ambassador in Asia. He lives in Ha Noi with his husband and two children. We found Ambassador Ted Osius to be open, hospitable and charming. He speaks fl u e n t V i e t n a m e s e , i s passionate about the country and is a campaigner for H u m a n  R i g h t s .
H e commended us for our work in Vietnam and for working with Chuck Searcy from Project Renew, as Chuck has been a friend of his for 25 years. 11 November 2015 As a member of Kyneton Rotary Club, I also asked if he thought Rotary would be operating in Vietnam in the near future and the ambassador said he was certain that it would. He added that his father was also a Rotarian.

We also helped prepare 100 meals and distributed them to the poor at the wonderful Lanterns Restaurant in Nha Trang. If you are traveling to Vietnam do not miss out on this experience. Lanterns Restaurant is another of our partners and supports many orphanages in the area. The good news from this trip is the fact that the incidence of UXO (undetonated bomb) accidents has decreased. This is because of three things; 1) Project Renew is educating the Vietnamese to identify and not approach undetonated bombs, 2) Project Renew has already detonated many bombs and 3) the price of scrap metal has fallen. The Artists for Orphans team had a dream of building a community garden complete with vegetables, chickens, ducks, cows, a water well and water tanks in Quang Tri Provence.

However, having visited the provence, we now suspect the Agent Orange affected families and the bomb victims (amputees) may be too far apart geographically for this to work efficiently but talks are still continuing. 11 November 2015 We are safely home now and brain-storming about our next charitable project in Vietnam. We all agree that the county is breathtakingly beautiful, the people endearing and the experiences life-changing. Artists for Orphans Inc Kyneton is deeply grateful to everybody to who supports us and enables us to carry out this important work. “All children are a blessing, not all children are blessed” Kindest regards Roni Wildeboer and the team Artists for Orphans Inc Kyneton Registration no# 12541 You can donate to AFO via the Rotary site RAWCS: For more information on Artists for Orphans Inc, Roni Wildeboer 0424938931 So you think you need a new kitchen????

This one serves a family of nine!

All Children are a blessing, not all children are blessed.