Sisters help hundreds of orphans and the needy in Kontum
by Peter Tran

The nuns started with three or four children and now help some 800 children who are without parents or far from home. Now they run six boardings houses, which have become a reference point for the area. Sister Y B remembers that “In the beginning, we didn't even have milk to offer these children.” Now they grow food and raise funds.

Kontum (AsiaNews) – The Congregation of the Sisters of Mary of the Miraculous Medal (FMM) carry out their mission in the Diocese of Kontum, in the Central Highlands of Vietnam.

They started out taking care of only three or four orphans, lovingly educating theme; over time, their work grew so that today about 800 children and young people, all under 16, are in their care.

Without parents, these children “grew up in difficult circumstances" but now live at the centre, said Sister Y B.

Most of them belong to “ethnic minorities”, often “very poor”. Some “families have many children, seven to 12, and we take care of at least one for each,” explained the nun.

For locals in this mountainous area, the work performed by the missionaries is of fundamental importance, since they themselves are forced to live in difficult circumstances.

In view of the situation, the nuns built six boardings houses that host 800 orphaned or needy children.

"In the beginning, we didn't even have milk to offer these children,” Sister Y B remembers. “We started by giving them the water in which we cooked rice instead of milk. Others got a soup made from forest leaves.”

Over time, the mission grew despite the difficulties of war and the shifts of power in Hanoi in 1940 and Saigon in 1975.

The boarding houses sometimes welcome outsiders, including tourists, who come to visit the children, and attend Masses and other religious services offered at local churches.

On such occasions, people bring rice, pasta and other food, plus other basic items to help the mission.

For their part, the nuns began growing bananas, rice, tapioca and wheat to feed the children thus limiting the financial burden on their congregation.

The nuns’ work is crucial and appreciated by local communist authorities, who unfailingly visit the houses to assess the children’s health and check the books, which the nuns keep with the utmost transparency.

"I welcome them with enthusiasm,” Sister Y B said. Sometimes, “we call them comrades (đồng chí) when they come to visit us.”

Finally, the convent holds fundraisers to help ethnic minority communities as well as people with leprosy or disabilities, in order to meet their different needs.