I let them sleep in my arms and break my heart… just a little.

This morning I went to visit Dieu Giac Orphanage in District 2, Saigon. It was a very different experience to visiting the boys shelter, this orphanage was enormous, filled with children from 2 days old to 18 year olds getting ready to leave and go out into the world on their own.


lunch time at Dieu Giac

The Dieu Giac (The house of love) is a buddhist monastery where the nuns do their good work in raising, housing, feeding and loving the abandoned children of Saigon. When talking to these nuns I realised that children aren’t found or abandoned the way I thought they were here. The children aren’t dropped at the doors of an orphanage, but at only a few days old are left at the Pagoda – the temple – their parents knowing that the nuns will find them and care for them.

For each little life, for each little soul left alone, there are hundreds more, just like them, all over the city. The unwanted children.

It was interesting to discover also, that adoption is not only uncommon its extremely difficult. The orphanage does not have an adoption program, the chidlren stay in the monastery until they are old enough to go out to work. They live their entire lives here, and the staff here are their only family. If you want to adopt a child you have to go through the government and there is no guarantee that you will get the child that you have already fallen in love with.

what a cutie!

I watched as the primary aged children came home from school at 10.30am for lunch, and as at the Bamboo shelter i was invited to eat with the children in the mess hall. We ate omelets, rice and vegetable soup from little pink plastic trays. The children pray in thanks for the food before and after eating. Their prayer is a beautiful song in the voices of souls that have been saved and cared for by the kindness of strangers.

The orphanage is an apartment building, the left side is the girls dormitory and the right side is for the boys. In the middle is a play ground, mess hall and first aid centre.

After lunch I talked to the older kids and watched them do their homework and blew bubbles with the large gang of 4 year olds that were hanging around me like cute little flies. Whilst playing with the little girls, a carer brought out an incredible little baby and dumped her in my lap. She looked up at me with those big brown eyes and I was lost to her completely. I balanced her on my hip as i kicked a soccer ball, did some colouring in, blew up balloons and laughed with the little kids in the play ground. Her tiny little chubby body pressed against mine and my fingers in her mouth as she chewed on them with her little pink gums. I would happily adopt that little girl and give her the life she deserves, but as I mentioned before, its just not that simple.

bubbles, bubbles, everywhere...

At 12pm the bigger kids filed out the gates to go back to school, all in little blue pants and white shirts with backpacks on their backs and the rest of us retired to the dormitory. It was nap time for all the little ones, and I sat on a wooden bunk covered in a mat with one little girl and helped her with her writing, she was tracing Vietnamese words, learning how to spell. She sang to me the only english song she knows, the little elephant song, I sang this song as a child so I hummed a long with her, she put her little dark hair down on a pillow and fell asleep. I still had the baby on my knee so I lay down next to the little one and lay the baby across my chest. This beautiful child batted her long black lashes slowly tickling my skin, and with one last kick of her legs she drifted into sleep. Her little pursed lips twitched and her hands clenched and unclenched in time with the rythm of her dreams. I kissed her head and placed my hand gently on her soft black hair, supporting her little head.

heart stolen...

When I left, back into the dry hot dust of District 2, I couldn’t shake the feeling of that little child sleeping, so innocent, so trusting, so soft… tears prickled the corners of my eyes, knowing that these children will never know the love of a parent, of someone who is just theirs. These children have wonderful carers, but there are 127 children, and 7 children per carer… there will never be enough one on one attention.

the little girls...

The maturity, development and lives of these children rely on the generosity and compassion of strangers… If you have anything to give, time, clothes, support, love, and you are in Vietnam, I urge you to please visit these children. Hug them, hold their hands – and if you want them, fight for them until you can have them in your lives.

Barefoot, teary and reluctantly walking away…

4 Responses to “I let them sleep in my arms and break my heart… just a little.”
  1. Son Le says:

    What’s a wonderful writing. You did such a great job describing the feeling, environment and special the children. I am touched with your writing. Are you planning to come back to Vietnam soon?

    Son le

  2. Ice Wong says:


    Think u got a very big heart n jus loving ppl like u contribute wat
    u able to,,,I wil be going to HCM next year to visit the orphanage.. Any information or email add of the orphanage as that some info i wanna to get to know more culture cultivating there,..Thanks n look forward to hear from u soon

    Ice Wong

  3. Kylie says:

    I hope you can help me.
    I was wondering if my daughters who are travelling to Viet nam in January would be able to just turn up at the orphanage that you went to and volunteer for a few days. Do you think they would allow them to work?
    They would like to travel to other cities and locate an orphange and do a few days volunteer work at each orphanage. I know there are so called organisations that can organise this but at huge cost and it seems to be that they are the beneficiaries not the orphanages.
    I hope you can help us

  4. Sam says:

    Such a wonderful post. Here’s the slte:

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