Updated: May 1
By Kim Offhaus, Adoptive Parent
Over Christmas break this year, my family and I had the opportunity of going back to Vietnam where we adopted our son 10 years ago. We traveled with 2 other Dillon adoptive families where we got to experience the culture and surroundings of our son’s birth country.
One of the highlights of the trip was going back to the orphanage in Vinh Long where my son lived the first 3 years of his life. The “nannies” and orphanage director were so welcoming and excited to meet us and to see my son again.
When we arrived at the orphanage in Vinh Long, we had the privilege of participating in a Vietnam Scholarship Presentation for children in the community whom receive the Dillon Scholarship to go to school. The room was full of children ranging from about 6 years to 20 years old, with the front row of about 10 officials. It was a big deal, with multiple officials coming up to speak, a news camera filming the ceremony, and several college aged students telling their stories of what the scholarship meant to them.
As I sat there, many thoughts entered my mind. Being a teacher myself, I know how important getting an education is to a child succeeding in life. Many of these children couldn’t afford to go to school without the scholarship and this scholarship is life giving for them. It creates opportunities they otherwise would not have. For less money than I spend on a trip to Costco, a child can go to school, receive an education, and hopefully help break the complex cycle of poverty. I wondered how these lives are being changed by being given the gift of going to school and discovering the gifts God has given them. I pondered how my son’s birth mom’s life might have been different if she had been able to get an education, learn to read and write, and had a way to provide for herself. Questions I asked myself included: What if she was one of the recipients of this scholarship many years ago? What if my son’s birth mom had decided to try and raise my son but couldn’t afford to send him to school? He could have been one of these 13 year old's sitting in the room eagerly awaiting the scholarship so he could go to school. He is so smart and loves school so much. That scholarship would have been such a gift to him.
One of the students who shared what the scholarship meant to her was this beautiful, gentle, soft spoken, 20 year old girl whose parents died when she was in 7th grade. She has been receiving the scholarship every year for many years and is now attending the University. My heart went out to her especially as I now have children in college. I thought, where would she be, who would be taking caring of her since she was without parents, if it wasn’t for Dillon’s Scholarship Program? How would she be able to afford to attend the University? I realized, in essence, the donors of this program are her family, providing for her by helping her go to school. I wanted to wrap my arms around her and say to her “You are not alone; there are people in the United States that care for you.”
I couldn’t believe how many students are recipients of these scholarships. It takes many donors to be able to send this many students to school each year. Seeing these kids, and hearing some of their stories, I believe in the program. I am so thankful for the Dillon Staff who work so diligently to make this program happen and for the donors who help children change the course of their lives.