Thi Nghe is located in Binh Thanh District in Ho Chi Minh City. From 1875 to 1976 it was a refuge for the homeless, the elderly and those suffering from incurable illnesses. In 1976 the Social Welfare Department of Vietnam assumed control and is now exclusively for the care of abandoned, handicapped children. It is a large center which is currently caring for over 400 abandoned children. Nearly all of the children here have disabilities, with about 150 suffering from cerebral palsy. When arriving at the center most of the abandoned children are also malnourished.
There are around 230 staff working at Thi Nge, who welcome both local and international volunteers to help care and play with the children.
Thi Nghe Center facilities include a fully equipped physiotherapy area, an infirmary, laboratory, 12 classrooms, a sewing workshop and a domestic science class.
The aim of the center is to provide care for the children who have mental and physical disabilities. They provide physical and mental therapy to try and give them some skills to move them as close as possible to independent living.
In 1994, a teaching farm was set up in Bao Loc, 200 km north of HCMC for young adults. It currently has 67 young people learning and receiving training in how to cultivate tea, coffee, vegetables and fruit, as well as working with farm animals. They also cook and do general house-keeping.
Some of the children at Thi Nghe are severely disabled so you should be prepared for some changes. The children we work with are not capable of feeding themselves, so staff and volunteers main work at present is helping with this. Some are fed with feeding tubes. It can be a slow process of feeding a small bowl of food so patience and perseverance is vital. Each bowl (also spoon and drinking bottle) is individually named and contains medication in the food. The staff will direct you to the correct child if you are unsure.
When feeding, most children should wear a bib and some need a large triangular pillow to support their head. Some children will move around a lot so they need to be strapped to the pillow to make feeding possible. You will need to take a wet cloth to wipe the face during and after feeding. We are asked not to stir the food while feeding.
Work usually includes helping with: feeding, changing nappies, playing, decorating rooms. There is a small sensory room which you can take a few children in to, and strollers are also available downstairs to push around the grounds.