No ordinary traveller

NEW FRIENDS: Lucette Dillon at Mai Ahm An Dao orphanage in Nha Trang, Vietnam.
NEW FRIENDS: Lucette Dillon at Mai Ahm An Dao orphanage in Nha Trang, Vietnam.

Can you imagine having a fulltime job and running a charity on the side?

Lucette Dillon of Kohimarama is 26 years old and is managing to do both through sheer determination.

"I spend about three or four hours on my charity every day. I have Saturday off but work a full day on Sunday."

At 25 she was all set to go off and see some of the world.

"I voted for Hawaii and he voted for Vietnam - he won. I wasn't that excited about it," she says.

The 26-year-old human resources administrator admits she had no idea what she was in for. Vietnam is ranked 128th on the UNDP's Human Development Index. There are 187 countries on the list. The index measures average achievement in three basic dimensions of human development: A long and healthy life, knowledge and a decent standard of living. New Zealand is ranked fifth.

So while her travel companion went off to see the relics of war, Miss Dillon chose to visit an orphanage.

"I ended up going back every day. He would go off and do boy things and I would go and buy clothes and food and take them to the orphanage."

When she returned to New Zealand it was Christmas time.

"I have five nieces and nephews and when I saw what they were getting for Christmas it brought home how much children in New Zealand have compared to children in Vietnam.

"I could see how much my family could help just by cleaning out the kids' bedrooms."

That was how she started her charity, the Quan Am Foundation. The ex-Diocesan student gathered up as many second-hand clothes, shoes and toys as she could find and took them back to Vietnam.

One child in particular motivates her.

"On my last day in Vietnam I went to an orphanage in Nha Trang. They wanted me to see a new baby."

She recalls going into a tiny room with no windows. A fire was burning on the ground. There in a decrepit cot lay a tiny baby boy.

"As they unwrapped him I saw that he had no arms. He'd been abandoned in the night. Now he's eight months old and is the chubbiest little boy."

Miss Dillon sponsors the boy with her own money.

After that first visit she fundraised $2000 and went back to Vietnam in July. She volunteered in charity schools and orphanages and used the money to buy food and supplies for hundreds of children.

She discovered that one of the charity schools desperately needed new desks. By getting friends and family back home to buy a desk at $25USD each, she had the problem solved in no time.

"Each sponsor got a photo of the child at their desk. It means 30 more children can attend that school."

Last month Miss Dillon had word that Quan Am Foundation has been approved as a registered charity. She has big plans for the next few months - a high tea fundraiser in October then a return trip to Vietnam in January.

Go to quanamfound for more information.

East And Bays Courier