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It's a Hard Knock Life

With my spirit already low-lying from the events of the morning, our group drags our heavy souls to the Orphanage of Can Tho, which is also a shelter for victims of "Agent Orange" or dioxin. Agent Orange is one of the herbicides and defoliants that the US Military used as part of its chemical warfare program during the Vietnam War between 1962 and 1971. Its primary goal was to defoliate forested and rural land; therefore, depriving guerrillas of cover. As an unwanted and unforeseen result of its use, approximately 1 million people are born with physical disabilities and other health problems according to the Red Cross of Vietnam. Some may argue that the Vietnamese Government used this opportunity to create propaganda against the US Government, but I can't deny that many Vietnamese people do live with all forms of birth defects and physical disabilities. Whatever the cause, these poor people are unable to afford treatment and live in agony and alienation.

Approximately 77 little orphans live here. A good number of the children have congenital birth defects, like cleft palate. Others have Down's Syndrome. Others have physical disabilities that I can't even describe. These children's families are unable to afford their medical care, and so leave them on the steps of this orphanage. Meanwhile, seemingly healthy and "normal" children are also left here by young couples who are unwilling or unable to take care of them.

I must admit the atmosphere of the orphanage is much more cheerful than the prison farm for the mentally ill and homeless. It's unfortunate that society's attitudes towards children is much different than adults, even though both groups deserve the most love and care. All in all, I was pleased to see that at least these children were treated with adequatelove, care, respect, and dignity. I must remember though, that this site is frequently visited by tourists, and so I have to question whether the living conditions are improved because of actual standards or because of a phony act that the government wants to play in front of these "white-skinned" tourists. I'm voting for the latter.

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