By Grace Mishler
The life of this program volunteer: a ministry of presence means being with a family when they find out, “Indeed, your infant is blind.”
The family traveled 12 hours on the bus from a remote village in the highlands of Vietnam in hopes their child was not blind. The baby was one of many premature babies who are diagnosed with retinopathy of prematurity. If diagnosed earlier, there are better chances of not going blind. It can be an avoidable blindness.
The family traveled 12 hours on the bus from a remote village in the highlands of Vietnam in hopes their child was not blind. The mother was exhausted. After hearing the child was blind, from a well-known eye surgeon, the parents needed to travel to the Children’s Hospital.
We traveled with them: two volunteers went with me. They were asked to come with me to provide counseling and support. I was there merely as a ministry of presence, as well as a coach and a supervisor for the two selected volunteers.
The trip to the hospital must have been very painful--just finding out that the child is blind, and needing to take the child to the hospital for a medical check up, but also being aware of the lines of people wanting to see the doctor for only three to four minutes.
We knew the mother was under stress as well as the father. We found a way to bypass the crowd by paying an additional $5, and the parents had better services with little time to wait. For poor people, the difference between $1 and $6 is too much to pay. Our project paid the $6. It was well spent in helping the family’s mental health for the day.
I’m happy to say the parents are now open to talk with another family who raised a blind girl from infancy. She’s now at a blind school and doing well.
I thank Dau Lam, the YMCA Person with Disability volunteer, who has skills in psychological counseling, as well as Bich Tram, a student with a compassionate heart. Also I thank the donors for making this happen.
This program volunteer joins other collaborative partners to improve the quality of life and service.
-- Grace Mishler, a Church of the Brethren member and a Global Mission and Service worker in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, has received honors for her work with disabled persons from Vietnamese government officials.