Not far from the center of Ho Chi Minh City is a shelter for homeless elderly women run by Sister Khai, a tiny, 80-year-old nun and her small team of workers.
The women in this shelter have nowhere else to go. Many were picked up off the streets, rescued from a life of begging, just trying to survive. Generally speaking, about half are too ill to get out of bed and most have some mental illness.
Few have any visitors other than the volunteers who drop in from time to time to help out at mealtimes or just to give these lonely women a massage, hold their hands or just share a friendly conversation.
Hands-On Saigon has been active both in friendly visits and also in procuring needed supplies and equipment as the shelter is supported solely by charity. Recent improvements include a filter for clean drinking water and a new water heater for one of the rooms where the women are bedridden.
Below, Kjell is standing with Sister Khai next to a table full of medical supplies brought from Sweden by a friend. On the right is a sterilizer Hands-On Saigon donated in 2010, which the dedicated medical staff was especially thankful for!
Mealtimes are very busy times. About half the women eat in the common dining room, while the other half need someone to feed them.
Visitors are always welcome and encouraged to help out.
Another way visitors assist is by providing and preparing special meals. The girls below are helping by checking the fish very carefully to be sure no bones or scales accidentally end up in someone’s bowl. The food is cooked in several large pots, taking into consideration special dietary concerns.
Bowls are labeled for each person and a message board indicates specific dietary instructions for each woman. Some of the women need their meals blended, so there’s a lot of work involved with food preparation and mealtimes.
Sometimes the ladies are treated to a performance of some kind, often by Vietnamese youth groups. The women that are stronger also take time to visit with those who are bedridden, to cheer them up.
Life can be pretty dreary for these lonely senior citizens and they respond appreciatively to a bit of loving concern.