June 22, 2005
Thien Binh is set apart from other orphanages I have visited by the familial relationships found between the caretakers and the kids. There are two head nuns in charge of the place- Mother Superior and Soeur Malee. The kids call these nuns "grandmother"; mother superior is ba noi and soeur malee is ba ngoai. The generation of kids before them called the two nuns "mother". The first generation consisted of about 15 people. They are now grown up and have families. The interesting part is a good portion of them still live in Thien Binh. Some left and moved to other places eventually returning and some never left at all. They have separate houses built on land within the compound and they have jobs in the orphanage. For example, Co Suong is in charge of the cattle and Ong Tomas does handiwork around the compound.
I asked if any of the kids ever got adopted and discovered much to my surprise that even if families wanted to adopt the children they would not be allowed to go. The nuns view these kids as their own and treat them as such. School is the number one priority to them and every child must complete grade 12. Once they have finished schooling they are free to leave. However, most of them seem to stick around. If they want to get married or find jobs elsewhere the nuns will help them make arrangements.
This system seems to have worked well for the first generation of kids but size of the orphanage is now ten times larger than it was beforehand. Things have changed drastically. A twelve year old boy that I had a conversation with has lived there for ten years. He told me that in the past, life was a lot more fun. It was less crowded and all the nuns were more easygoing. Now because there are so many kids they are always getting yelled at for being too noisy and when one kid gets punished they all do. And they also had a lot less prayer time.
Posted by Thuy_Nguyen at June 22, 2005 01:33 AM