When we moved to Nha Trang at the beginning of the year, we were looking for a way to help the community. Vietnam has given us so much and we were looking for ways to give back.
Through a mutual friend, we met Eileen Brown. She is one amazing lady and also the founder of the Tuong Lai Foundation (TLF).
The Tuong Lai Foundation is a social enterprise in Nha Trang which is primarily focused on helping the orphans of Tu Bong orphanage.
Over the past few months, Eileen has become one of our close friends. She invited us to join the summer program at Tu Bong. The summer program was a 10 week program where the local children were taught English. This is what I have been craving to tell you more about! So let me get into it!
Tu Bong is about 60 km’s from Nha Trang. It’s a beautiful drive through small towns and past rice fields. On the way, there is a small street stall where we would stop for drinks. Fresh sugarcane juice and coca-cola. (Or as the locals call it, CokA!) Trust me, your bum gets a bit sore after sitting on the motorbike for a while!
As you drive away from the city, everything starts to feel a lot calmer. Life feels a lot simpler in the countryside.
In a way, I think this place found us. As you drive through the entrance gates, your soul just seems at peace. Your life in the city suddenly doesn’t matter anymore. All that matters is this place. These children, caretakers, monks and workers. We always read that money doesn’t buy you happiness, but let me tell you, giving back does. Giving back means so much more than just helping. It’s about the friendly faces that greet you on your arrival. It is about communicating in different languages, learning about the culture, lending a hand.
We were lucky to have spent 2 weeks at Tu Bong. Our morning routine consisted of watching the sunrise over the mountain and then taking a quick shower. After this, AJ got ready for his meditation at the temple and I went to help set the table for breakfast. In the mornings we taught English using books and games. Our main focus was to build confidence in our students so that they don’t feel shy, or scared, to speak in English. In the afternoons, we had different activities. From balloon car races to painting boiled eggs, everyone took part in the fun!
If you would like to find out more about the summer school, check out this video.
But why did we do this? Why did we get involved? Our lives are already so jam packed and busy!
Well my dear friends, isn’t this what life is for? Should we not always strive to help others? To give back in any form and in any way we can? Life doesn’t feel real if we just live for ourselves? I truly believe that to get connected to the universe, to truly feel alive, you need to get involved.
Not only did we spent time with the locals, but we also had time to spend with our friends. People who inspire us, who will bend their backs if you need any help. These people put blood, sweat and tears into everything they do. I saw a different side to life up here. It was a reminder to be thankful for what I have and also, that I can make a difference in someones life by just talking to them.
I still believe that we can change the world. There is always hope. And during these two weeks, I knew that hope was real.
“From what we get, we can make a living; what we give, however, makes a life.” ~ Arthur Ashe
And yes, there are moments where I think to myself “Why is this life so unfair?”. Moments where I burst into tears thinking about all the people in the world that need our help. But, there are moments that I will cherish forever. Where a young girl comes up to me with a card saying “Thank you for teaching me”. We will remember the day that we all cried together, but more than that, we will remember the moments where we laughed together. It’s not just about giving back, it’s about living. There will always be tears in the world, but we can leave smiles where we go.
The Tuong Lai foundation currently supports about 15 orphans. These little ones need daily meals, formula, carers etc. There are always ongoing costs and any support is welcome. Please contact the Tuong Lai foundation if you would like to help in any way you can.
“Learn to light a candle in the darkest moments of someone’s life. Be the light that helps others see; it is what gives life its deepest significance.” – Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart