Norwegian photographer and graphic designer Mads Monsen was contacted in 2007 by an overseas Vietnamese who wanted to spread awareness about orphaned childrens’ situations, raising funds and support for the orphanages they lived in.
“[The guy] set up a portal online and commissioned stories to be put up on the website,” says Mads. “We provided him with words and photographs, along with bank details for the orphanages so that people could donate directly.”
The stories were successful, and every donation that was given went directly to the children. There were no middlemen and no percentage cuts to cover costs.
While there are a number of state-run orphanages in southern Vietnam, all of the orphanages that Mads and the team worked with were privately run.
“The funds go to the necessities, such as food and clothes for the children,” says Mads. “Because they are independent, all the orphanages we worked with rely on donations to survive. That’s why we went for the local ones, without an NGO network. For them, every dong makes a big difference.”
To Mads, the most important thing that the children in these establishments need is education.
“They need the tools to be self-sufficient,” he says. “They also need love, the feeling of belonging to a family, and a safe, stable environment, but the most important thing is an education for their future.”
Quite often, the children have not enjoyed the happy childhoods many of us experience.
“Looking back on how I was raised, I consider myself very lucky. I wish all children could have a safe upbringing,” says Mads. “Unfortunately, there are many sad stories connected to the children at these orphanages prior to their arrival. Some have been abused, others have simply been given away as their parents could not afford to feed them.”
Inspired to help, Mads has visited the orphanages directly to document the children who live there.
Snapshot in Time
“At the different orphanages, I have been able to walk around and meet the children,” he says. “Some pose, but with others I get ‘snapshot’ moments, including a few tantrum spells where the children start crying when they don’t get their way.”
Over the years, Mads has volunteered similar services to other orphanages around Vietnam, to give them better images so that they are able to raise more funds. He often visits the orphanages on his own time and money.
“You reap what you sow,” he says. “My first encounter with the orphanages provided me with a small fee to cover travel costs and so on, but since then I have donated my time and effort without payment. I believe it is important to do good when you can.”
If you are interested in donating to one of the many orphanages in southern Vietnam, you should connect with them directly.
“Depending on how well known they are, it is simply a matter of getting in touch,” says Mads. “There are also various groups that help on a regular basis, and once you start looking, you will find them.”
Photos by Mads Monsen