In January 2016, Seam The World’s sponsors, donors, and volunteers visited Ngoc Chau Nhu Village in Soc Trang Vietnam for Seam The World’s Annual Charity Trip.
Ngoc Chau Nhu village is a place that few people go to or know about. If one was to drive past it they would be struck by the beautiful green fields of one of Vietnam’s most fertile red onion production places. Unfortunately for village onion farmers, (the majority of which are ethnic Khmer) who plant, process and handle the onions that fertileness comes with a very difficult life and a disablingly poisonous job environment.
The village of Ngoc Chau Nhu is home to around 1000 blind people (700 people that are blind in one eye and 300 people that are blind in both eyes.) All signs point to the staggeringly high number of blindness being a result of directly working with the pesticide filled “onion powder” that is used to preserve the freshness of the onions after they have been harvested. The onion curing process is a highly toxic and volatile process that gradually robs the farmers of their sight. The workers eventually become blind from ulcers that grow on their eyes when the preserving chemicals enters their eyes during the pealing and planting of the onions.
Sadly for the people of Ngoc Chau Nhu village, the “onion powder” poison isn’t the only toxic chemical wreaking havoc on the local population. Chemicals left over from the war have also inflicted severe devastation on the local community. The water system is thought to be contaminated, and is likely the cause of a very high amount of birth defects and other disabilities. When Seam The World was there, we saw a small child with sunken eyes, disabled hands and legs singing a song. His song filled us with worry as we thought of the life that awaits him and other children born in his village.
There are few options if you are born or live in Ngoc Chau Nhu. The fertile and poisonous green fields of onion, chili, and garlic represent the only viable chance of income for the vast majority of the village. With no other job options and limited access to medical treatment, many of the villagers have become reliant on outside donations that are made through the local temple for their livelihood.
Seam The World’s time in Ngoc Chau Nhu Village was a powerful experience that will always stay with us. Spending time in the presence of the farmers is a startling and sobering experience that filled us with many different emotions. It was meaningful to have the workers share their lives with us, and for us to be able to see the struggle that they face. It was beautiful to see the workers in the temple singing Buddhist mantra’s together for hours on end. It is hard to understand why people have to live life like this in order to make a living, but we are glad that we were able to come together as a team to offer some form of support. We hope our donations brought some happiness and made their impending Tet holiday celebrations more enjoyable.
A big thank you goes to all of our donors and volunteers, especially LCEEC (Lam Cuong Electrionic and electronic equipment company) and Cacdemode Fashion Brand for sponsoring the event.
With the help of our sponsors Seam The World donated: 100 kg’s of rice, and 250 gift bags filled with 250 boxes of noodles, soy sauce, salt, seasoning, sugar, and cakes.