Vietnam Toy Library
by Kathy Sampson
After holidaying to Vietnam twice in 2 years with my husband graham we both fell in love with the town of Hoi An because it was smaller than the other major cities and seem to need more resources for children. Because I have 30 years experience in libraries and toy libraries I thought it would be a good idea to establish a toy library with educational toys for the children in the Hoi An community and also the town is a UNESCO heritage town.
I am the Project Co-ordinator for UNESCO Australia South Australia Chapter and early 2007 I suggested to the committee that UNESCO become part of the project. and they were very happy to support this. First I had to find a connection for the support from Vietnam. After looking for a library in Hoi An on the internet I found that The Degenhardt Foundation had established a book library so after getting on to their web site I was able to email Dawn Degenhardt and tell her of my idea. She was very pleased about the idea and it all started from there. Dawn put me in contact with her daughter Joy and throughout the following 18 months we were in contact with each other about the project.
I work at St Andrew"s School in South Australia and the school community was very generous with their donations. The children gave me their good quality second hand toys and also bought new toys. I was also grateful to another school St Peters Girls School for all of their donations as well. I have a friend that works in a large public library that also has a Toy Library and fortunately the Toy Library was given a grant from the government to purchase some new toys so they very kindly gave me all the toys that they deleted from their collection. I would also like to thank family and friends for their collection of toys as well.
Once all the toys were collected I then had to work out how they would be transported over to Vietnam. Thanks to Singapore Airlines they were very kind to help out at a cheaper rate. We needed to fundraise for the transportation and setting up the room that was next door to the book library which was situated in a children's community centre. UNESCO held a movie afternoon with raffles and sold chocolates for 3 months. All of this came to $3,000. The teachers at my school also did a fun run and altogether we raised $4,000.
The room was painted late December 2008 by an Australian couple from Western Australia who were holidaying in Vietnam. Joy organized shelving, computer and table, small tables and chairs for the smaller children and one large table and chairs for the older children.
Initially my husband who was very supportive of anything that I did was going to go over to Hoi An with me to help me establish the Toy Library but sadly he got liver cancer during this time so things had to be put on hold for some time. He passed away in May 2008 and I am very upset that he never got to see the library. The project kept me going after his death. I kept very busy by packing the toys into very large boxes night after night in my garage at home. By the end I had 35 boxes of toys to take over to Hoi An.
My niece Jane offered to come with me to help me. I cannot thank her enough It was a lovely gesture as she lives in Japan with her husband and she traveled back home to South Australia to travel with me. We arrived in Hoi An on new years eve. We stayed in the Hoi An Hotel for 3 weeks and the hotel staff were fantastic and very helpful. The children centre was directly behind the hotel.
The only thing that went wrong was that the customs at the Da Nang Airport would not release the toys from customs until we paid them extra money. We were in Hoi An for a week before they arrived at the centre. I could not believe that these people could not see that this project was for their children in the Hoi An community.
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Vietnam Photo Journal
by Don Funk