On Sunday, July 19th Will Sandman (ed – Saigon Swans Committee Member and chief Goal Sneak) set out with a few families to have a sports day at The Hope Center orphanage.  Accompanying him on the trip were Tam and Map (Map is a nickname although he has lost several kgs…his real name is Toan), their 3 kids (16, 12, and 10), Quyen and Pat Hoang, and their 2 kids (18 and 15).  We set out to provide an afternoon of fun and athletics to a few of the kids from the orphanage.

But before we tell you about the day, let me first explain a bit about The Hope Center.  The Hope Center started about a decade ago with Pastor Nhon and his wife, Mrs. Tra, taking in a few orphans into their family home.  Over the years, this has grown to a total of 144 kids.  They are generous people and have a hard time saying “no” when they see another human being in need.  The Pastor and Mrs. Tra have help from their own children and a few staff from the local town.  The orphanage is located to the northeast of Ho Chi Minh City in Dong Nai near the largest part of the Dong Nai river.

The Hope Center is a modest orphanage with a large kitchen and a gathering area for the kids.  Each orphan has their own bed, but shares the bathrooms and other common areas when necessary.  There is a church next door and thanks to some fundraising in Ho Chi Minh City, they will get solar panels installed later this month in July of 2022.  They have a bus that takes many of them to school on a regular basis and food has been available for all the kids so far.  Many people have helped along the way with donations, but certainly more needs to be done and will be done as we move forward.

On the day as we showed up, the kids were just having their late breakfast.  All 144 were sitting in their normal seats, well behaved and smiling as usual.  We waited for them to finish their food and then we started to take small groups out to the small field we had reserved for a few hours.  Because the bus was broken down, we were not able to take as many kids out to play, but all in all, we had about 60 kids.

We pumped up about 10 balls (thankfully donated by the AFL and AFL Asia) and the kids were given instruction by Will on how to hold the ball and how to kick it or hand pass.  Of course, they took to the game pretty quick and before we knew it, balls were flying around like crazy.  The kids were having a wonderful time and luckily no one took a falcon in the chaos.  Once we settled them down, we were able to form some lines for some drills.  It was a hot day, so water was provided on a regular clip as we wanted to make sure the kids were hydrated.  The older kids helped the younger ones and we closed the day with a mini competition divided by age group.

We also gave out the footy cards to the kids and they were delighted to trade them back and forth with their friends.  We are hoping they get a chance to ask questions the next time we come.  We plan to make another trip out on July 24th so we can exclusively focus on the girls from the orphanage because they did not get to participate last time due to the limited space on the vans going out to the field.  The Hope Center staff thought this might be the easiest way and Will promised to come back to make sure the girls were not left out.

Although it was only a few hours, this type of event is not a regular occurance.  The orphanage has to be more worried about food, shelter, and school rather than about extra curricular activities such as sports.  Pastor Nhon and Mrs. Tra do not have the staff or the time to share with the kids footy or any other sports simply because there are basic necessities that take precedence.  And this is understandable.  

So, if we leave you with anything from this article, be thankful for the time you get to spend having a kick.  Not everyone is as lucky or has the abilities to have a kick and many of us sometimes take it for granted.  Show up for practices when you can, try your best on the pitch, and if you have a moment, come have a kick at The Hope Center.  Maybe one day, we will see a legend arise from humble beginnings to be the next great footy star?