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THE W.A.T.A. JOURNAL

PROJECT:VIETNAM - TRIP 1 RECAP

 


THE TEAM


Arthur Han (Executive Director of HSICF), Tran Han (Arthur's Wife) and their 2 kids, Cyrus Maroofian (W.A.T.A.), Larena (photographer+videographer), Volunteers from a local Vietnamese non-profit (Tam Ky Project).



Sep 3, 2023


About a 6 hour drive from the central coast beach town, Da Nang, up into the central highlands, sits a group of small mountain villages home to around 250 people. 


The road to the village brought us through various scenes from mystical waterfalls to small towns. From time to time we'd reach an area where workers were building a road to help make the journey easier for everyone. The current dirt road would often wash out during rains, leaving cars and people stranded while the closures were addressed.


















After another final U-turn with the Van to head back down a little offshoot that was theoretically the road to the school, we finally made it to the village. The final hill up the school was steep that some people got out and walked it, afraid the Van wouldn't make it up. As we finally made it to the gates of the school, topped with colorful flags, we were suddenly swarmed with children, running barefoot through the dirt and mud to see who had come to their little village. Some of the children were shy and hid behind the fence, while a number of the more courageous ones came up to us, interested in what we were doing.



After unloading the various boxes of foods, donated items, school supplies, and our bags we were shown to our room (the teacher's lounge) and were introduced to all the school faculty, the other Vietnamese volunteers, and the village representatives. The common language here was "google translate".

Years ago, while I was meeting with a non-profit organization to give them filters for a trip to Tanzania, I was actually invited to come along the trip with them, which became the start of my relationship with Arthur Han and the Han-Schneider International Children's Foundation. Throughout the next few years I would join Arthur on his mission trips and travel the world, interacting with a number of different peoples and cultures. (Read more about the Start of W.A.T.A.). On this trip most recent trip, we headed out to Vietnam to help open up a school that Arthur built, while also donating some water filters that I had brought with me.

Part of our mission here was to paint a mural on the side of the school, in addition to play games with the kids and donate some very needed school supplies, art supplies, and dental supplies, all in preparation for opening day. The mural, which was designed by same artist who painted the mural on the school in Tanzania, was going to be projected on the side of the school where we would then come trace the projection and paint in the mural. This essentially all went to plan, until the power that the school had captured from the solar panels, also donated by the Foundation, had been exhausted. We did our best to finish the drawing and then came the fun part! Boxes and boxes of paint were brought out, and through the most scientific methods of pouring different colors into different caps and bottles, we were ready to color in the masterpiece.



This was where we really start bonding with the children and even the other volunteers from the Vietnamese Non-Profit that also joined us. We painted until it was dark and we ran out of lights, when we were then told to enter the classroom where the teachers and villagers had prepared a feast for us.



All the desks in the classroom were pushed away and in the center was a spread of various local Vietnamese dishes on an assortment of plates, napkins, and leaves. As we each sat down, we were handed little pink tea cups. These small pink tea cups ended up becoming the ultimate bonding tool. Naturally, we had sit down by our groups, Arthur, myself and our group in one corner, the Vietnamese volunteers across from us and the teachers on the other side. As everyone was getting situated, the group of Vietnamese volunteers that were sitting across from us waved me to come to their side and opened a space for me to sit between them. They then as asked me "Beer or Wine?".



The night consisted of exchanging stories through google translate, various "Mot, Hai, Ba, YO!"s (a way to toast) and multiple small pink cups of "wine". By the end of the night we had become a family united in the common goal of helping people, specifically the children of this school. Something that really stood out to me was how hospitable the Vietnamese side of our family was. Anytime our plates were just beginning to empty, they would offer more food. Whenever our cups reached the halfway point, they would be refilled instantly. The language barriers were broken through cheers, hugs, smiles, laughs, and so many selfies.


Sep 4, 2023


The next morning we woke up to a ramen breakfast and the best coffee I've ever had. This little plastic pink cups still the vessel of transport for all drinks. It was raining this morning so the kids were in class and we adding some touches to the mural and waited for the rain to die. Once the rain died, the plan was to setup some filters and then go into the jungle and test the filters for the kids and the teachers.


With a belly full of ramen and coffee, and the rain starting to lessen, we started planning for the demonstrations. We grabbed all the filters and gathered the teachers and members of the local non-profit to begin the training and demonstrations.



It was amazing and encouraging to see how quickly they took the filters and started working them. The main village rep (standing up in a hat in the bottom right photo) came over and gave us a hug once he realized what the filters could actually do. He told us that people have been getting sick "from the small particles in the water" and that these filters will help them from getting sick. That little flame inside me igniting even more.



After the training session at the school, the rained stopped and we decided it was time for us head into the jungle, which was located right behind the school. Naturally, the kids led the way, as we passed 2 small bodies of water, a water buffalo, and through a somewhat overgrown path up the jungle. We eventually stopped at one boulder that had some water flowing next to it and that's where everyone decided would be the best place to test.



We performed the demonstration a couple times, making sure everyone was watching. The teachers then took their turns screwing on the filter to the bottle and squeezing the bottle to let out the clean drinking water. The first drink is always the most impactful and always the part I am the most excited for.



The hesitation of the first kid was natural, this water had been getting the village sick, and now some person outside of the village was telling them it was ok to drink. The relationship we had built with the teachers eventually convinced the children the water was safe and after the first kid drank, the rest followed! They were really into it too, taking the bottle and drinking from it and then passing it to another kid and then another.



Being able to not only show the kids how the filter works, but also let them drink the now clean water was something I feel was really impactful for me. The teachers all understood the importance of this technology and helped the children understand how this filter can now help them get access to clean drinkable water. The goal would be to now bring more filters. As we headed back down towards the school, my mind was racing on how I could bring more filters, and when I could even do it...

 

PRESENT DAY


I now sit here finishing up this blog post that should have been posted months ago, and I can't believe that in just 2 weeks I (with my friend Izaiah) will be returning to this village to setup more filters. Not just a few filters, but 50, which is enough to set one up for every household located in the village and surrounding villages. These 50 filters will give the 250 people living in these villages access to clean drinking water. This is just the beginning, however, and the plan is to partner with the local non-profit we worked with on the first trip, and the Han-Schneider Foundation to find more villages and areas that would benefit from these water filter systems. The goal then would be to create a larger project in the future to bring and setup even more water filters - and we were stoked about 50...


As we were we planning this trip to Vietnam, another opportunity was presented by someone that I went to USC with. She now lives in Burma (Myanmar) and explained how the villages that she works with are also in the need of clean drinking water. Part of our plan in Vietnam was to follow up with the village a week after we setup the filters. During this week break, we decided it would be good to go to Burma and not only scout the location suggested by my friend, but also setup between 10-20 filters that we will be bringing with us. The goal would be to not only make an impact on our first trip, but also setup contacts and relationships so that we can return in the future with even more filters. You can help support this trip by donating to our GofundMe


If you would like to make an even bigger impact in our mission to help people get access to clean drinking water here are some things you can do:

  • Follow Us on Instagram @clean.wata and Facebook

  • Share our story and mission with people in your network. Word of mouth and referrals are one of the best ways to support the cause

  • Donate directly to W.A.T.A./HSICF (The HSICF is our non-profit sponsor so all donations through our website or www.han-Schneider.org will be tax deductible)

  • Donate to 1 of our 2 GofundMe pages. These do not qualify for a tax deduction but go towards directly funding the trips.

  • Sponsor Us: For a monthly donation (4 Tiers) you can sponsor/partner with us to help fund more water projects and bring more people clean drinking water.


Any and all support is really appreciated and will have a huge impact not only on us achieving our goal and mission but also on the people around the world who currently don't have access to clean drinking water.

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GET INVOLVED

Support can come in different shapes and sizes and all of it is impactful! Here are some different ways you can support not only the organization, but people around the world!

Direct Donations

You can donate directly to the organization. This will fund future trips and filter purchases. Any donation is greatly appreciated and will go a long way.

We Partnered with the Han-Schneider International Children's Foundation so that your donation can be a tax deduction!

SPONSOR US

One of the biggest way you help get involved is my sponsoring W.A.T.A. or becoming a sponsor for an event that we are throwing! Learn more about what it looks like to be a sponsor, and what benefits it gets you!

SHOP & MERCH

You can support W.A.T.A. by purchasing prints and merch that will fund filters and trips so that we can continue to work on our mission. All merch is designed by us! Photographer Prints coming soon! #Prints4Water

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