Malnourished children and orphans (in red) playing at the convent
Children from ethnic poor villagers in the Central Highlands are able to escape malnutrition and abandonment thanks to Catholic nuns’ houses.
Two years ago, Elizabeth K’than had to carry her daughter on her back to her coffee and rice fields and forests as no one looked after the baby at home.
K’than, 31, said then her child was pale and thin and got sick often due to facing rain and sunshine. “We suffer malnutrition because we have only rice and vegetable for daily meals,” she noted.
She said her daughter was 17 months old and weighed seven kilograms.
“Now she is in good health and weighs 10 kilograms after she has been looked after by nuns for two years,” K’than said. Her daughter can sing songs and make the sign of cross before meals, the mother of two added.
K’than’s daughter is among 25 malnourished children aged 1-3 at the Handmaids of the Holy Spirit sisters’ convent based at Ta Nung village on the outskirt of Da Lat city.
The children are from local ethnic K’hor families who have many children and live in poverty.
Sister Anna Nguyen Thi Khoe, head of the four-sister community, said the children play games and are given free milk and food at their convent from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Their meals cost 15,000 dong (US$0.75) each a day, she added.
Sister Khoe, 57, said the nuns started to nourish children suffering malnutrition 14 years ago. At first, they had to take children from their home to the convent in the morning and return them back in the evening since their parents are busy working on fields or in forests, she added.
Sister Khoe said they also give food, accommodation and education to 25 other ethnic orphans at their convent.
The nun said K’hor ethnic fathers traditionally do not bring up their children after their wives die. Children would be abandoned or their mothers’ relatives bring up them.
She said orphans are brought up at the convent until they finish high school.
“We work with local ethnic people as a way to bring God’s love to them, the poorest of the poor,” she noted.
The nuns cultivate 10,000 square-meter coffee plantation to make a living and support ethnic children, she said.
Handmaids of the Holy Spirit society was established in 1990 by the late Father Andrew Nguyen Van Thanh. 26 society members also do pastoral activities at parishes, look after elderly people without relatives and live among ethnic groups.
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