On April 10th, 2018, AUV students visited DAVA, the Danang Association for Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin. The trip was scheduled for Mr. Ben Quick’s Composition class, but in conjunction with student activities, the trip was open to all AUV students and teachers.
Mr. Quick, the professor of English Composition, has a particular passion for what DAVA does as his father served in the U.S Army during the Vietnam war to which he was exposed to agent orange. Quick’s inspiration to plan the field trip was to bring attention to the issue of victims from chemical warfare, encouraging students that their time with affected children is a contribution in and of itself.
The DAVA center hosts 100+ children who are victims of agent orange, providing education and vocational training programs for the children. While at DAVA, students spent the day talking, dancing and singing with children and members of the center. They also talked to the center directors about the operations and what difficulties the center has to go through while teaching and taking care of the students.
The most memorable part of the trip was the opportunity to talk with Matt Keenan, a former American soldier who participated in the war during 1970-1971. Matt, unfortunately, has cancer most likely from his time exposed to agent orange. His diagnosis made him wonder who else might have been affected by chemical warfare. His curiosity led him back to Da Nang.
“I only found out the consequences of what we did 40 years ago recently when I came back to Vietnam and saw what the children here have to go through,” Matt said. “I feel guilty, and I’m doing the best I can to help pay back for what we have done.”
Matt’s touching story and actions of volunteering has caught the attention of major news companies in Vietnam and the U.S., but it also captivated AUV students.
“Isn’t it amazing, that a soldier who poured this dioxin chemical down on our land 40 years ago is here, talking with us, and volunteering to help the children who are the victims of what he had done?” Anh, an AUV sophomore said. “Seeing this, I am very touched. I feel even more emotional towards this part of our history.”
The students will each write a two-page reflection paper about their experience at DAVA. Hopefully, the trip is a jumping off point for students to learn and volunteer with organizations like DAVA in the future.