"Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile,
but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy." - Thich Nhat Hanh
Traveling to Vietnam through the Loving Work Retreat was a rich and nourishing experience for me, as it allowed me to deeply see and feel true love in all my interactions with fellow group members, friends from the charity organizations we worked with and visited, as well as, from the local community of Hoi An & Hue. I left Vietnam with a heart filled with gratitude and am inspired to return to visit my friends, and continue the good work we have done, and to see the fruits from the labour of our loving work.
After School at the Play Ground, Cam Thanh Community Center
Cam Thanh Island, Hoi An
LOVING KINDNESS: The members of the 2016 Loving Work Retreat formed ourselves as the Peaceful Cloud Sangha, and they became the first sangha that I've practiced with. Eating, sitting and walking mindfully everyday with my sangha gave me a great anchor in my meditation practice. But more than anything else, practicing hugging meditation truly allowed me to receive the loving kindness from each and every one of my friends in the sangha. The experience - of looking deeply into one's eyes, listening intently to one's words, breathing with them, and holding each other in a warm embrace without judgement - was liberating, and it continues to envelope me with a sense of love for self and for all beings.
At the Kianh Foundation Day Centre
JOY: I felt much joy spring from my heart as I played with the children at the Kianh Foundation - all of whom have special development needs due to a variety of physical or learning disabilities, but are happy and balanced children who receive education, therapy and life skills intervention from loving teachers. Walking into a class for toddlers and children aged between 2 and 6, language was no barrier even though I spoke no Vietnamese and they spoke no English. All it took was an outreach of my arms to carry them and a smile on their faces - in no time, I was tangled in a group of giggling children, two in front of me taking turns to be lifted into the air, one of them hanging on to my neck for a piggy ride. I felt deeply connected to the joy and innocence of the children and this gave me much joy in return.
COMPASSION: Mrs Vy Va Han is the founder of For the Children Viet Nam and she is a champion of books and reading for the poorest children in Quang Nam and Nghe An province. Her work is engaged in introducing libraries into elementary classrooms of the most rural and remote schools, and handing out scholarships to children whose parents cannot afford to pay an annual fee of USD 150 for their education. It was a privilege for me and our sangha to travel with her to the schools to hand out books for the libraries and to meet the families of the scholarship award recipients. I was touched by the heartfelt appreciation of the families - to see a small amount make a difference to transform the suffering and lighten the burden for the children and their families.
INCLUSIVENESS: I felt a deep sense of inclusiveness working to build an organic garden in the Cam Thanh Community Centre with my sangha friends from all over the world (Canada, Germany, New Zealand, USA), friends from Action for the City and local friends (Be Tran, and Minh Tran). In many societies, and at work too - we apply superficial labels of age, gender, ethnicity, educational qualifications to determine a person's value. These labels had no place when we were all down on our knees to clear the land of wild shrubs and weeds; and on our posteriors to plant grass. When one of us fell sick and needed rest, another would take his or her place. The work under the hot sun did not feel tedious when we had accompanying music played by Peter; uncovered fine pieces pottery from the soil for Sylvia; and discovered nature at its best as we encountered ant hills, praying mantis,snakes and other creatures. We worked at clearing the land for a few hours each day and our consistent and collective efforts transformed an abandoned orchard into a field ready for an organic garden, fruits trees and a new office for Action for City. I am full of anticipation for how the organic garden will take root and become a place of learning, sharing and inclusiveness for the children who visit the Cam Thanh Community Centre.
Lotus Pond, Villa Hoa Su