How one woman changed the lives of more one million children.

November 2019 will always be remembered in my heart, as a life-changing experience.  On the 30th November, I walked through the gates of the Sunshine School in Vietnam, to an explosion of confetti, balloons, music and the warmest smiles and cheers from the children blessed to be part of this school.

It wasn’t an easy journey there…but nothing worthwhile comes easily. My journey started eight months previously, in March 2019, when I met a woman who blew my heart open, Christina Noble.

Christina is from Dublin, Ireland. If you’ve heard of her, then you will know the work she does for the kids in Vietnam. For the last thirty years, she has taken them off the streets and given them back their childhood through life, health, education but above everything, through ‘love’.

What really inspired me to help Christina, the CNCF, was Christina’s depth of love for the kids, her fierce love that knows no boundaries. You know when you talk to her that she would do anything for them.

To date CNCF has officially helped over 1 million children. This has a ripple effect, by helping 1 child, imagine how many more are positively affected: families, friends, millions more.

Maya Angelou, says
“People will forget what you said, People will forget what you did, but people will never forget HOW YOU MADE THEM FEEL

Life gifts us with moments, small windows of opportunities and we can choose to embrace them or walk away.

In meeting Christina, I felt inspired to help and embraced the opportunity to join a 600km Cycle Challenge from Cambodia to Vietnam for Christina Noble, the kids, for the Foundation #camnam.

I was full of doubt and fear about signing up for this challenge. I had to raise €3,000, I also had to ride a bike (it was almost 10 years since I’d been on a bike!) and I also had to leave my family for nearly 2 weeks.

It’s no surprise that the CNCF tagline #itsforthekids – became my mantra during those long months of training.

Over the next couple of months, I organised events to raise the funds:

  • Bagpacking
  • Coffee Morning
  • Kids Yoga Video (with my son)

I found so much support, no matter where I turned.

I was blown away by the generosity and support of my family, friends and my students and within 5 weeks I’d raised almost €3500.

And so began the training, 8 months and countless hours. But no matter how difficult it got, my mantra was always #itsforthekids.

On 21st November 2019, I joined with 16 others from around the world, including 3 others from Ireland and began our 10 day Cycle Challenge from Cambodia to Vietnam.

We started with a 50km on our first day – after that it we did various distances up to 90km and 100km with our biggest ride at 120km.

We cycled through dusty off-road tracks, meeting local children along the way who greeted us so warmly with big smiles. We’d hear little voices shouting ‘Hello’ from amid trees or houses and waving to us. This definitely made the long cycle days much easier. They kept us motivated and alive.

Pics1 camnam blog

We weaved our way through the exciting pathways, woods and trails of the temples of Angkor Wat, with rough terrain, a few short sharp climbs and even a skim with water.

There were moments of strugge, moments that were intense. The pace set was undeniably fast. There was no way I could give up… the group energy was full of inspiring motivation comradery, with many laughs along the way.

Printed at the back of our cycling tops were a few solid words that were a constant reminder of why we were there “it’s for the kids”

.One memorable highlight from our 100km cycle, was watching a little girl’s eyes light up when she unwrapped an Activity set I gave her. It was filled with colouring pencils and books. It just melted my heart.

We also had major tanning matters. The red dirt tracks led to some deeply tanned legs, arms, faces, and when I got home, I found it in those hard to reach areas too.

Pics1 camnam blogWe experienced a heart-stopping Tuk Tuk through the city of Phnom Penh and survived their crazy road etiquette! Trust is definitely required to brave the roads, or just close your eyes and pray.

You never know what you’re going to see on the back of a bike. Still it was shocking to see a woman driving with one arm while holding her few week old baby in the other. We visited the Killing Fields, horrendous to say the least.

Another highlight was a 5hr boat ride along the Mekong River from Cambodia into Vietnam. Every minute was a highlight as we sped through the water stopping twice to pass through border control. Passing fishermen and cargo boats with magnificent sites along the way. The lack of safety regulations lended itself to a much richer experience as we sat at the front of the boat minus life jackets. We were greeted into Vietnam with a glorious sunset.

After 10 days cycling over 600kms, through challenging terrain, 38 degree heat, early starts, late finishes, our group of 17 challengers experienced the highlight and the prize for this life-changing trip.

Maybe it was the exhaustion of the accumulated hours on the saddle, the early starts (5am and 6am). Maybe it was the long days, the sights and experiences of the extreme living conditions that we witnessed. On entering through the gates of the Sunshine School in Ho Chi Minh City, I felt a wave of emotion as we were embraced by the warmth and love of everyone there. Greeted by Helenita (Christina Noble’s daughter), Olivia and all the amazing staff that all work so hard there.

Pics3 camnam blogEvery child was so welcoming. I realised, these are the lucky ones. The ones who’ve been given the gift of life from CNCF.

Inside the School we met with the smaller babies and toddlers that have more challenging needs. Many of them are fighting for their lives, third and fourth generations still affected from Agent Orange. They are so strong willed. These little babies just melted my heart; they are so loving and warm. It’s a true testament to the depth of unconditional and fierce love that I felt form Christina when I first met her back in March. Every child that enters this school are gifted a lifetime opportunity to be educated and stop the cycle of poverty.

 

In Christina’s book – she talks about her vision that brought her to Vietnam – a dream. She saw a child reach up to hold her hand.

In Vietnam, she was days away from returning home with no money left. She was on the street with the children and one child reached up – just one – and she knew that she wouldn’t abandon this child or any of the children. In her heart she knew whatever she did it was for the kids.

That was 30yrs ago.

“It is LOVE that makes the impossible, POSSIBLE.”

My message to you today is SEIZE THE MOMENT – don’t be afraid. Life’s biggest gifts are waiting for you.

If not you, then who? If not now, then when?

If you feel inspired to help or would like to check out the work of CNCF you can click here https://www.cncf.org/

I’d love to hear from you, leave a comment and let me know if there’s one nugget that has been helpful for you.

love
Lisa x x

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