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Reaching Out MBC2013

Saturday, 20th July 2013.  9 Riders and 1 insane walker took up the Reaching Out Mountain Bike Challenge for 2013; to Ride (and walk) over 40km cross country along the rough terrain of the Welsh Mountains.  Cooler than recent days, the weather was bright and warm with a thankful cloudy overcast that kept the sun off the riders’ backs.

Following the same route as the 2010 Mountain Bike Challenge, the course lead riders from the Daerwynno Outdoor Centre to the mountain top of Rhigos and back down.  Riders had to negotiate all manner of terrain, from fire-roads to downhill rocky slopes; muddy pits and baby heads (that’s loose stones and boulders for the uninitiated).

It was no easy task for our walker, Barrie Johnson to choose to walk the whole route starting at 06:00 in the morning and completing the course in 7 hours and 30 minutes!

Everyone who took part in the challenge managed to raise over £1,000 in sponsorship pledges – so well done everyone!

The money raised by the sponsorship will be used to purchase push bikes for school children living in poor rural areas in Vietnam, thereby allowing the children to commute quicker and more easily from the villages to their schools.  This is part of our current project work with Project Return (Registered Charity No. 1081641) working with projects throughout Vietnam to help the poor, destitute and disadvantaged in Vietnam.  You can learn more about this year’s project and our recent mission to Vietnam in posts to follow.

Enjoy the Video

…and some pictures that capture the day

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A big shout out to Barrie Johnson who was insane enough to WALK the whole 40km route!  Well done barrie… Here is a collection of photos he took on his way…

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A big, big thank you to everyone who helped make MBC2013 happen and to everyone who supported us!!!


Wales Today

On Friday, 10th February 2012, the BBC Wales programme Wales Today featured a short story about Le-Thanh and discussed aspects of growing up in South Wales in the seventies and the difficulties he faced growing up in such a small ethnic minority.

The news article also went on to discuss the recent trip to Vietnam to volunteer at the orphanages and to highlight the plight of the children still suffering from the effects of the Vietnam War.

The interview and article was put together by a lovely reporter, Jenny Rees, who seemed to be genuinely interested in the work that Reaching Out are undertaking; and it was a great opportunity to promote the awareness of Reaching Out domestically throughout Wales.

The programme was broadcast on BBC Wales, on Friday 10th February at 18:00 and was available to view on BBC iPlayer for a short time.

Reaching Out Makes BBC News

We made it on the front page of the BBC News (Wales) site:

Follow the link to view the article

While You Were Sleeping

South Wales Echo Thursday 29th December 2011

Reaching Out in the South Wales Echo

Reaching Out makes the pages in the South Wales Echo over the Christmas period

Merry Christmas

Thanks to everyone who has supported Reaching Out and Vietnam Volunteer Network this year, and a special big thanks to all the Volunteers who joined us on our recent mess ion to Vietnam!


This video is for all the volunteers who give up their time and money to help the children in Vietnam…


Journey’s End

It’s 08:33 and I’m sitting at gate A6 in Taipei International Airport, waiting to board my last aircraft bound for Heathrow.

I set off from Pontypridd three weeks ago, and what a journey it has been – truly an amazing experience. I am sad that it’s coming to an end, but equally it looking forward to seeing my family who I really wish could have shared the experience.

I keep telling myself that this wasn’t a holiday, that in fact I came out here with a specific purpose and sure there were some tough aspects to the mission. But I can honestly say, this beats most of the ‘personal holidays’ I’ve had (save may be last year’s trip to Vietnam with my family). Meeting the children and the carers who work so hard at the orphanages and peace villages we were fortunate enough to visit filled with some a sense of inspiration and touched me which I truly wasn’t expecting.

Throughout the trip we meet so many children, many of whom suffered severe physical disabilities. There were children no older than my own with malformed hands, missing limbs, swollen heads or unable to control their movements. Toddlers who were unable to walk on their feet so had adapted them selves to walk sides of they feet, or arms. Children that made use of plain plastic chairs to hop about because they were born without legs. A deaf girl unable to speak, yet so smart  you couldn’t imagine why she would be in a place like this.


Yet despite this physical conditions the most amazing and warmest personalities shone through. Within seconds of meeting these children, their disabilities just melted away and you were left with a feeling of just wanting to spend as much time as you possibly could with them. Even the children who were only able to lie in their cots, their faces would just light up whenever they heard your voice or at the merest touch.


Why? It’s simple, these children need love and comfort. Spend just a few minutes and you are instantly rewarded with smiles and hugs.


The next time you moan about a headache or hurting yourself, have a thought about these children, because despite their disadvantages and disabilities they are so full of life and they don’t complain.

As I look back at the mountain of photos and video footage I managed to take, I can’t help but reflect on how this project started and what was achieved. In some ways, I was a little naive. When I returned for my last trip to Vietnam in 2010, I made a little promise to myself that the next time I went back I would try and volunteer at an orphanage. Before you knew it, a simple idea evolved into a passionate project lead by a number of people who shared my desire to visit Vietnam and help orphans in Vietnam; and so Reaching Out was born. But Reaching Out wasn’t just about volunteering at orphanages. It was about raising awareness about Vietnam, and the children affected by the war which ended over thirty-five years ago. Our goal was to raise awareness, money and aid and deliver the aid to a few orphanages spread throughout Vietnam.


You can’t help but think that in a place like Vietnam, these orphanages are poor and need money. Don’t get me wrong, they do need money and support. But a just a little money goes an extremely long way in Vietnam. It is great that we can supply aid and gifts, but I realise that is only a short term thing.


In a place such as Go Vap, home to over 200 children, toddlers and infants there is such a shortage of workers and carers. For example, the terminal ward, each room must have had about twenty or so children and just three or four workers to care for them. This may not seem so bad, but when you consider the children suffered severe conditions such as Cerebral Palsy, Sclerosis, Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus (as a result of the effects of Agent Orange) – to change, wash or feed just one child could take over an hour. This meant that the staff could only afford to give little time to each child as each one had to be washed, changed and feed quickly so they could move onto the next one, then the next and the next and so on. Typically, the children with the more serious and life threatening (meaning they were less likely to have a longer life than the others on the terminal ward) received the minimal care and very little attention. It isn’t intended to be mean or callous, it just simply their culture. They think its better to put the time and effort into the children who stand a better chance of a longer life. So this is why volunteers mean so much to a place like Go Vap; with more and more volunteers coming to help out, it means that the “forgotten ones” also get a chance to have some care and attention too.

On the whole, the best thing people can offer these orphanages is volunteers, people who are willing to come out to Vietnam and help care for these children, as well as be willing to spend some quality time with the children and helping out with the work to relieve some of the load from the carers.


So what do I take back with me after this journey? A sense of achievement? Satisfaction that I help out in some way? I wouldn’t presume to be so arrogant, after all the whole purpose of the project was to deliver aid and volunteer in the orphanages – so to say I was satisfied we archived that is perhaps a little self-serving and selfish. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad the project completed its goal, and I am staggered, amazed and very grateful for all the support everyone has given Reaching Out. But I was never looking for a pat on the back, or some sort of recognition of achievement. I can say this though, it really opened my eyes. I thought I knew something about Vietnam and about they people, but what I knew just just scratching at the surface. From the children I have met, and the hard working carers I would say I have learned that we should make do with what we have, and enjoy what we have. I will do what the children do, day to day – and that is to live life to the full.


I take back memories of getting to know some of these children personally, raising smiles and making them laugh; teaching dear Phuong (a blind boy that loves music) a couple of new tunes and playing a duet with him; meeting Gai, a beautiful little girl who suffers from Cerebral Palsy and is unable to control her movement, yet has the prettiest smile I have ever seen. I am sad to have had to say good-bye to all the children, carers and volunteers I met on this trip because I have made some very good friends here. They have inspired me; to see their determination to carry on their daily routines, in the face of such adversities; the warm, friendly and enthusiastic personalities that shine through is simply awe inspiring.


It makes me think about what happens next. When I first started with Reaching Out, we set it up and have an end goal in sight; but it’s clear that there is more that we can do to reach out in Vietnam and help some many more who have suffered and have been affected by the ruins of the war that is almost long forgotten. There are still children born with birth defects who are not orphans, but their families are so poor they struggle to live day, by day. There are unexploded mines scattered throughout the country than are accidentally set off my innocent hard working farmers with devastating consequences. I think Reaching Out has only scratched the surface, and there is more to be done to reach out to those who are able to help these people dogged by the sins of a war that ended over thirty-five years ago.


To the fellow volunteers I met, I thank you all and it was a pleasure to met you and I hope you keep in touch. For all the carers, teachers and doctors I met, please keep up the good work, your work is so inspiring. And to the children; thank you for the chance to meet you and share a moment in your life.

Well, sadly I say good-bye Vietnam, for now at least. I hope I can come back again in the not too distant future.

Tạm biệt!


Say Hello

Meet the kids of Go Vap orphanage in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The orphanage is home to about 200 children, many of whom suffer severe physical and menthol disabilities.

Scars of War

Welcome to the Agent Orange ward at the Tu Du Peace Village located in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

The ward is home to about 60 disabled children; their disabilities are due to the devastating effects of Agent Orange.

Reaching Out visited the Agent Orange ward to deliver milk aid and christmas gifts and to meet the children living on the ward. The children were a delight to meet, and had such amazing personalities and were full of life.

Hitting the Notes

Just got back from Go VAP…

It’s been a great morning. Matt and I were given the special needs class. It’s a great class full of wonderful different characters.

Today we decide to teach a little English and Welsh and had the kids counting one to ten in Welsh!

Have also managed to teach Phoung a new tune today. He’s an amazing little boy, although blind he loves to play on his electric keyboard. I played the first few bars of “The Hornpipe” to him, repeatedly and after a few minutes he picked up the notes. But what he seems to prefer to do now is play the piece together in unison, after “mot, hai, ba…”

Little Nam

Please meet little Nam, only 9 months old and was left at the Go Vap orphanage in Ho Chi Minh City just this week. Nam suffers from hydrocephalus and has little hope for a future. Please support the work Reaching Out and Vietnam Volunteer Network are doing to help others like Nam.