Family goes to visit sponsor child
For some, the thought of travelling around a developing country for a summer holiday, does not appeal.
But for a Feilding family of five, visiting Asia to meet their Vietnamese sponsor child, Be Thi Kim Chi, 4, was a chance for them to see how the other half lives.
Manawatu District councillor Steve Gibson, his wife Carolyn, and three children flew to Vietnam in March, where they spent three weeks.
Mr Gibson has donated monthly to children in developing countries for more than 20 years and, at present, his family look after two children through sponsorship charity ChildFund.
When they decided to take a family holiday, the Gibsons chose Vietnam as the destination, which allowed them to meet Chi and experience a different culture for a short time.
The family arrived in Vietnam's capital city, Hanoi, before travelling to Chi's home village, an hour out of the northeastern city of Cao Bang.
There, they spent a morning with Chi and her mother and learned how their sponsorship helped the child.
"It was really neat for the kids to see how the other half lives," Mr Gibson said said.
The language barrier was challenging for the family, who found themselves communicating with impromptu sign language.
Instead of attempting to speak with each other, Chi and the Gibson children sang songs and drew pictures.
The family donated toys to Chi and her school. They were very much appreciated, Mr Gibson said.
As a result of visiting Cao Bang, the family had an opportunity to experience a part of Vietnam rarely seen by tourists.
The three Gibson children especially received a lot of attention due to their blonde hair and were often asked to be in photos.
Despite the basic living conditions and poverty of the Vietnamese people, Mr Gibson said they were very welcoming and kind and Vietnam was the friendliest and safest place his family had ever been to.
"It was definitely an eye-opener for all of us," he said.
"The positive nature of these people, they're always happy and yet they've got very little."
Mr Gibson said it was unsettling to receive gratitude for sponsoring a child, as it is much easier to give than receive, and New Zealand is like a whole world away from Vietnam.