Foreign volunteers nurse disadvantaged children

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Many foreign youngsters are now taking care of disadvantaged children at hospitals and pagodas in Ho Chi Minh City thanks to Volunteers for Peace, an international NGO.

Fleur Cochrane is many children's favorite at Ky Quang Pagoda in Go Vap District.

The 26-year-old, now a lawyer in Australia, makes the kids laugh easily. She first came here as a tourist but says her visit this time has been even more special. With Volunteers for Peace, she has visited with children from all around HCMC and she has begun to hone her knack for singing to them.

"There's a language barrier, but most of us understand each other through our actions and eye contact," Cochrane said.

Haruhito, a 22-year-old biology student from the University of Tokyo, took part in the same one-month program as Cochrane.

He has been to several pagodas and taken care of children with cerebral palsy at the HCMC Traumatology and Orthopedics Hospital.

Haruhito says he loves children, so working with Volunteers for Peace was a natural fit. But still, feeding moving targets took some getting used to. Now Haruhito spills a little less rice while feeding the children than he did a month ago.

Overseas Vietnamese Tammy Pham was also part of the program.

Pham, 23, said it feels great for her to do something meaningful in her homeland.

She is usually surrounded by children as she knows how to calm them down and can create fun games on the spot.

Vu Duy Thanh, a Volunteers for Peace organizer in southern Vietnam, said most of his volunteers want to return to Vietnam.

"It is our pleasure to be a bridge that helps foreigners understand and love Vietnam more."

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