$50 buys food for everyone in the orphanage for a day
$20 buys a week's supply of baby formula milk
$25 pays a year's school fees for one Elementary school child
$50 keeps a secondary school student in school for a year
The Duc Son kids were once nobody's kids. Now they have a home and 'parents' in the form of the nuns, who lavish as much attention, love and care as real parents- perhaps even more. But the children's future hangs in the balance.
Balancing the budget
Providing for the daily needs of 200 children as well as nuns and support staff is a constant struggle for Nha Su Thich Nu Minh Tu and her team. Although the garden provides some vegetables, and traders sometimes donate unsold produce, most food for the orphanage has to be bought at the local market.
Education is a major focus and expense for the orphanage. School fees, uniforms, books, stationery, put a heavy burden on the limited finances. And now the cost of running the school van, essential for taking children to and from school, has increased with the rise in petrol prices.
Electric power is needed for vital utilities such as lighting, water pumps, electric fans and even heaters in the winter. Hue's average summer temperature hovers around 86°F and sometimes soars to 100° or more, but in winter temperatures can drop as low as 54°F.
Milk is a relatively rare and expensive commodity in Vietnam. Imported milk powder is a cheaper option. High quality formula milk for the babies is a big ticket item for the orphanage. When asked how she would spend an extra $1 000 a month, Nha Su Minh Tu's immediate response was "buy more formula milk!"
Medicine and health care
Although the orphanage does everything it can to reduce the cost of health care, inevitably children get sick. Hospital visits are free, but dental care, specialist treatment and medicine are expensive.
Clothes are often donated and handed down to younger children. But clothes don't last forever. And then there are the other essential domestic overheads such as electricity, gas, telephone, cleaning and laundry products and so on.
The orphanage relies almost totally on donations. Donations come in many forms, cash or in kind, such as the kitchen ware and clothes donated by local people. Volunteer fund raisers, mainly elderly women, seek donations from people in the local market. Local people have little enough but contribute a few thousand dong, basically a dollar or two. While every donation is warmly accepted and appreciated, it's not enough.
Vietnam is experiencing increasing inflation with resulting rising costs in basics such as food, electric power, gas. This has put even more strain on the orphanage's struggle to survive.
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