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Australian Rules Football In Vietnam!

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Archive for April, 2007

Hanoi Swans Help Local Kids

Posted by Vietnam Swans on April 11, 2007

Great individual supporters of the Warmhouse Orphanage included Justin "Pumper" Hart, Daryl Taber, Michael Johnston, Phil Johns and in this pic, Ed and Kate Smith.

Like any other club, the Hanoi Swans is made up of a group of people that hold a similar passion for a particular activity, and in this case it just happens to be the Greatest Game on Earth – Australian Rules Football. However, in addition to this sporting focus, the Hanoi Swans have been pursuing ideas and opportunities to become more involved with the local community and to actively add value to peoples’ lives. With this objective, a number of initiatives and activities have been undertaken – from hosting international sporting events/functions to HIV Aids awareness.

In August 2006, the Hanoi Swans opened a new chapter in their community sport and development program by becoming involved with the 19-5 Warm House Orphanage.

The 19-5 Warm House Orphanage, located in Ba Dinh District of Hanoi, is a public owned and operated centre for disadvantaged and orphaned children. Currently the centre is home to 8 orphans and around 147 children, ranging from 5-17 years old. There are 7 teachers and 2 counsellors, providing the children with as much support as is possible with the limited resources available.

The centre is supported by the District Committee for Population, Family and Children (CPFC). The teachers are supported externally. Late in 2006 the orphanage came under significant financial pressure. In response, the Hanoi Swans made a one-off donation of US$565 and held numerous meetings with the CPFC, Plan International and the UNESCO Centre for Non Formal Education of Vietnam with the objective of finding a long-term financial solution. During this time, the Alcan G3 Expat Staff very generously donated another US$565. However, the more we became involved, the more we were being drawn into taking both a management role and responsibility for the financial future of the orphanage. Given we are primarily a sporting club with a very transient membership, this was extremely risky.

The Hanoi Swans were in a position to support, not underpin, the future of the orphanage. And so, to quote a number of footy coaches, we went “back to basics”.

Hanoi Swans agreed that the Club’s main strength, and hence involvement, should be purely from a recreational perspective.

This participation gives the children a sense of control and importance, both aspects of self awareness that they have sadly lived without for the majority of their lives. Further, Vietnam is a very hierarchical society that is male dominated at all levels. Although this sounds very sexist in contrast to western norms, it is an issue that is ingrained in the very basic aspects of Vietnamese culture. With this in mind one of the most important things that the Hanoi Swans can bring to the orphanage is recognition and support from a male orientated group. This instills a feeling of self belief and esteem amongst the children, that they “do matter”, because these crazy looking men in red footy jumpers want to spend time and share their experiences. On the flip side, it is a very rewarding experience for those of us who are able to engage with the children and offer them the one thing that money cannot buy – time.

Surprisingly, now that we’re talking about the orphanage rather than just footy, women seem to be taking more of an interest in our Club… What was wrong with just footy??

Future Involvement

With the sharpened focus of the Hanoi Swans, the football club has commenced planning for future activities. With drownings being the number one killer of children in Viet Nam – over 40 children perish per day – the Hanoi Swans have identified swimming lessons as a valuable activity to share with disadvantaged children. It’s a perfect fit for the Hanoi Swans. “Everyone” in Australia can swim, swimming is a sport and especially in this country, it’s a survival skill. Starting mid 2007, the Hanoi Swans will implement a swimming program with the 19-5 Warm House Orphanage and then assess its practicability for extending to other orphanages and disadvantaged groups. In addition to swimming lessons, the Hanoi Swans will look at other sporting events and recreational activities as tools to enrich the lives of those less fortunate

Tet 2007 (February) – Year of the Pig

Tet is the single biggest celebration in Viet Nam, marking the beginning of a new Lunar Year. Tet, which literally means “the first morning of the first day of the New Year“, lasts for 7 days during which time all Vietnamese head home to spend time with their families. On the midnight hours of the New Year period, fire crackers and gongs can be heard all over Viet Nam as part of a special ceremony called Le Tru Tich which is aimed at sending off the old and welcoming in the new. Also common around the country is a yellow flower called Hoa Mai, which represents spring and a new beginning. People are also very careful about what they do on New Year’s Day, as it is believed that this will determine their luck for the coming year. Happy New Year, Chuc Mung Nam Moi”

The majority of children at the 19-5 Warm House Orphanage have no family or relatives to share this special time with, so the Hanoi Swans decided it was important to get down there and provide a bit of festive spirit. On 10th February, one week before the Lunar New Year, a number of Hanoi Swans visited the 19-5 Warm House Orphanage, to present the children with an array of sporting goods on behalf of the United Nations International School (UNIS). After a short presentation, the Hanoi Swans spent a number of hours playing games with the children and their new resources.

Confession: buried beneath the sporting equipment, we did slip in a footy.

If you have any questions about the above activities and/or would like to become involved with the Hanoi Swans Football Club, please do not hesitate to contact the Club President, Mr Phil Johns at

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