Islander spends vacation with Vietnam orphans

Lisa Abeyta, the manager at Island Salon and Spa, will spend her two weeks of vacation at an orphanage in Loc Binh, Vietnam. Instead of pampering Island women with manicures, facials and makeup, Abeyta will be caring for children suffering from malaria, leprosy and malnutrition. The work is trying, the hours are long and the living conditions are far from comfortable. But the rewards, according to Abeyta, are invaluable.

“You have to be called to this kind of work,” said Abeyta, who is an ordained minister. “What you see is more than you can comprehend. Most of these orphans were found wandering in the jungle. Most have seen their parents killed.”

The organization behind Abeyta’s trip to Vietnam is the Global Gateway Network, an inter-denominational Christian organization that pursues humanitarian projects in developing nations.

In 2003, the charity built an orphanage in Loc Binh, located in the mountainous region of northeastern Vietnam, to house 48 homeless children. They named the orphanage The Center of Hope. Since then, the facility has been home to children ages 6 to 16. The youth attend schools in the surrounding area during the day and return to The Center of Hope as they would to their natural homes.

Yet according to Abeyta, the orphanage has pressing needs. In addition to lacking the resources to improve its water system for drinking and washing, The Center of Hope has yet to rebuild its surrounding fence, which was destroyed during a recent storm. This project — building a new fence — is what Abeyta and her team will devote most of their time to.

On July 26, the beautician will leave Island Spa for Loc Binh, where she will meet up with 14 doctors, nurses, dentists and non-medical volunteers such as herself for 14 days of hard work. Although two weeks is a lot of time to ask off work at once, her employer and Island Spa owner, Norma Stryzewski, has been “so very supportive” of her Vietnam mission trip.

“I’m very excited for her to do this,” Stryzweski said. “That she’s willing to take her time and honor life in another country says a lot about her character. I absolutely think it’s a worthy cause.”

Once in Loc Binh, the Global Gateway Network team will distribute basic health supplies and toiletries — toothpaste, Band-aids, vitamins — to the children and staff at The Center of Hope while medics give individual check-ups. Those who are not professionals in the field will help out in other ways.

“You want to be utilized in every way,” said Abeyta. “Most everyone is experienced in some way. Once you get there, everything falls into place.”

This is the second time that Abeyta has spent her vacation time with Global Gateway. Last year, she travelled to the jungles of Burma. Using her experience as a Lasik eye surgery clinician, Abeyta tested orphans’ vision and provided glasses for those who needed them, thanks to generous donations by her Lasik patients.

“They were so appreciative to have them,” said Abeyta, who worked at a Lasik eye clinic before joining Island Salon. This summer, she will be doing different work, helping out in whatever capacity needed.

“We do whatever we can. Last year, we played games with the children and put on a clown show,” Abeyta said.

Despite the moments of joy experienced on their mission, much of what the Global Gateway volunteers see is painful to witness.

“We saw more than we’d like to — a lot of sick babies, people suffering from parasites and dehydration,” Abeyta said of her 2007 trip. “They have next to nothing.”

Yet the ordained minister said she would not spend her two-weeks’ vacation anywhere else. In fact, these mission trips have become an integral part of her life. Over the past eight years, Abeyta has traveled to Israel, Burma, Thailand and Vietnam, reaching out to less fortunate people.

“It’s definitely a sacrifice,” she said. “But it’s amazing to see how much help you are.”

If you would like to donate to The Center of Hope, send checks (made out to Global Gateway Network) to ATTN: Lisa Abeyta/Vietnam Trip Global Gateway Network

P.O. Box 1207

Richland, WA 99352

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