You won't believe what happened next...
I used that title because it is always reels me in when I see it. And yet, when I look back on the last 10 years, I can't believe what happened next. I was originally going to write this post differently, but 10 years for a small non profit is a pretty amazing accomplishment, and like any kind of meaningful growth, it comes with pain and joy. I want to acknowledge both.
In 2008, I accompanied friends to this little orphanage in Vietnam where their son was waiting for them. We spent a couple of weeks interacting with the kids there. They were so engaging, so full of life and promise, and before we knew it, we were making a commitment to come back the next year. When we went back, we identified dire problems the kids face if they age out of the orphanage without education or training. From that revelation, Big Big World Project was born. Our goal: independent, educated, productive kids who have a chance in this world. Our method: love and education. We were clear that just throwing money at it wasn't enough. These kids needed family. They needed to see our faces, get hugged and nagged. The trip each year is the core of what we do, and after 10 years, we definitely have a family.
Cynthia and I started with just the two of us, hitting our friends up for donations for the kid's educational needs. (thank you friends- you know who you are) We travel each year to check in on the kids, to let them know that they are loved and worried over. After Betsy joined us in year 3, we became an official non profit, and now we have grown to have board of 7 committed people. We have taken many people with us on the trip over the years, and each and every one of them are still connected in some way to the kids.
None of this happened magically. We have stumbled, we have fallen, we have dusted ourselves off and learned our lessons the hard way. It really is not easy navigating this thing in a country on the other side of the globe. We have surrounded ourselves with a great and committed team on the ground in Vietnam, especially with our translator/advisor/coordinator, Thao. We have had many successes. Since our involvement, 100% of our high school grads have gone to college. 7 kids in total have graduated from college. 2 are in University right now. When we have these successes, we celebrate. It is no small feat to lift yourself from poverty and loneliness to a place of confidence and productivity.
We have also had a few crushing disappointments. Kids we love have chosen to leave the orphanage before they have graduated from high school. They are fending for themselves, and a few we still have contact with are struggling in heartbreaking ways. We can't help everyone, even though we want to. It has been a hard lesson for us, to understand that in order for this to work, someone needs to grab on to the rope you throw and pull themselves up. No small feat.
It is overwhelming to think about all of the support we have received over the years from people who believe in the kids. I wish all of you who donate could meet the kids. You would feel even better about your choice to help. They are amazing.
This year, we will be interviewing a few of the kids on camera. The interviews will be posted here, on this blog. We will also be giving you a tour of the orphanage. It is interesting to see how others live , and we hope you will enjoy our videos of life in Vietnam.
Thank you all for being involved. Good things are happening in this world, and you are a big big part of that! Please enjoy this slideshow of our 10 year journey showing volunteers on the trip.