by Amanda Webster
For the past 13 years my view of Sunflower Mission has been through the website, newsletters, blog posts, photos, and the words and stories of Duy-Loan Le. Being at the workcamp in Vietnam in person has awakened all of my senses to more fully understanding and experiencing the work of Sunflower Mission.
My professional background is in Corporate Social Responsibility, I have worked in Corporate Philanthropy for over a decade, reviewing nonprofit organizations and what they provide for communities and how they operate. Through all of those years, Sunflower Mission has always stood out with less than 1% of their fundraising being spent on overhead. That statistic is almost unheard of, and it can even be hard to explain how robust programs can be run without full-time, paid staff. Getting to personally meet the individuals participating in the Workcamp provided an explanation for the low overhead, as everyone involved from Doctors and Engineers to young grade-school children were pitching in, and are clearly dedicated to the vision of Sunflower Mission. It has been moving to hear each individual’s story of why they are here and why they participate.
For me, the reason for why I participate is that as I lead LEGO robotics workshops, I love to see the “ah-ha” moment a child has when they see that they have the power to build and bring to life a new creation. It is like they can see the power within their own mind, to learn something new, to face and overcome a problem, and the power to innovate and create something new totally of their own. My favorite part, by far, is when they have learned enough about the materials and programming to go “off script.” They will start adding different elements to their robot or program, or better yet, tear it apart entirely to making something brand new from scratch. The laughter, smiles and sense of pride that follows is truly priceless.
The primary reason I have not been able to travel to a workcamp over the years that I’ve worked with Sunflower Mission is that I’ve been having my own children. I’m a mother of four, so naturally arranging go on a Workcamp trip to Vietnam has been difficult. My children are very young, and I feel that they need me… to feed, bathe, cloth, teach, nurture and provide for them. Yet, here in Vietnam, encountered a village full of children, that reminded me so much of my own, with similar needs, and few resources available to meet those basic needs.
This experience has brought to the top of my mind a memorable dream I once had, where my own children were without food, shelter, sanitation, and were walking along a road alone. In the dream, I was watching from above shouting for someone to notice them, to care, and to help them. Waking from that dream, I naturally felt a sense of relief that my kids were safe tucked in their beds at home. But the vision has never left me as I read about, see images of, or get to meet children who have unmet basic needs. I know I would go to the ends of the earth for my children… and it leaves me with a question for myself of what I would be willing to do to meet the basic needs of any child.
Being at the workcamp this week has reinvigorated a passion within me, has caused deep, genuine reflection and gave me the privilege of meeting some extraordinary people. It is an experience I that I am forever grateful for.