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At RushMyPassport, every customer has a story. We thought this one was especially worth sharing.

Recently, we had the opportunity to help Hillary Brown, co-founder of HOW, an organization that helps children, the elderly and the disabled in Vietnam.

Helping Orphans Worldwide

HOW (Helping Orphans Worldwide) is a small charity, but it operates several remarkable projects, including:

  • A program to help Vietnamese children affected by the rare skin disease Epidermolysis bullosa (EB), which causes the skin to be so fragile that even the slightest friction causes painful blisters. HOW provides wound care supplies and other support to these children and their families, along with training for the medical professionals who care for them.
  • A tutoring and mentorship program for children in an orphanage.
  • A nutritional program supplying milk, rice and vegetables to Vietnamese orphanages, children living with EB and other needy groups.
  • Support for clinics treating people afflicted with tuberculosis, HIV/AID’s and Hansen’s disease (leprosy).
  • The Starfish program, which helps desperately ill children like the little girl pictured above get the medical care they need to survive.

With so much on her plate, it’s no wonder Hillary didn’t notice how quickly her passport was filling up with stamps! We helped her get the extra pages she needed to get back to Vietnam.

I caught up with Hillary via email to ask her about her work and her experiences in Vietnam.

Q. What do you like most about Vietnam?

A) What I like most about Vietnam is the people, they are warm, caring, and very caring about people who
come to help and the young people are eager to help when given the opportunity.

The food is wonderful, the places to visit (although I personally have not been to visit much as I work all of the time) but our volunteers have really enjoyed the beauty, beaches, traveling and seeing amazing sites and the history of course is very sad but they make the best of it with grace. There is so much to see, do and learn. There are so many wonderful things about Vietnam. Our work shows us a different side which is difficult but with a lot of hard work we are welcomed in
the country to assist in a responsible and transparent way.

Q) Do you have any advice for someone considering volunteering or “voluntourism” in Vietnam?

A) We DO NOT like the word “voluntourism” in fact we are against it. Our program is much different then just dropping in to see the kids for a day, like the zoo… we have strong opinions about this. The children and people are already feeling abandoned in their lives so having people pop in and out for a day is more harmful then good. We have a 2 week program to show people where their funds go and the children understand the volunteers will come WITH THEIR LOCAL TUTORS who are our VIP (Volunteer Immersion Program) translators. They will always either come back or stay in contact via sending cards or relaying messages to us for ALL of the children.
Our volunteers get to see and understand why we need help and see firsthand where their donations for the VIP trip go.

We only take groups of 6 at a time to keep it very intimate and we VET, CHECK AND INTERVIEW all volunteers after they have filled out an application so we can be very sure the children are safe. This program also gives our foreign volunteers an opportunity to learn about Vietnam through our local volunteers and great friendships are made for life.

I would say to look into the program you are joining and research the NGO to make sure they are registered in country and not just trying to make a living off of people who are traveling. This is a touchy subject but one I have strong feelings about. The children and local volunteers safety comes first and while people have good intentions, there are sometimes things they don’t consider. I would talk to a volunteer who has been involved with the charity or NGO of choice. I
would check with www.guidestar.org to see if the NGO is registered, and transparent. HOW has Silver Status with Guidestar but we always believe in checking things out before you dive in and then… DIVE IN!

Testimonial

Hillary says, “Thanks RushMyPassport for helping me to get the additional pages taken care of so quickly and with such ease, this helped me in more ways then I can express as I was able to focus on my work and not worry about the passport issues. I am so grateful for this!!”

You are so welcome, Hillary. We’re glad we could help!

To learn more about HOW and how you can get involved, check out their website and their blog.