Hanoi, December 6, 2010
An American pianist staying in Hanoi played a concert to benefit homeless and disabled children on December 4, raising 1.1 million VND. Chris Hess of San Francisco, California organized and performed the “Farewell to Vietnam” event at the Paramount Café in Hanoi.
Chris and other LIB volunteers
Hess is a volunteer for the Life Is Beautiful (LIB) Campaign and for Three Trees, a volunteer-based NGO which conducts arts and crafts projects at the Centre for Tending the Old and Disabled Children in Ba Vi. The Centre houses hundreds of abandoned children with severe mental and physical disabilies, and the funds raised will provide supplies for the children to do creative projects. The Ha Noi Service of Labour, Disabled Soldiers and Social Affairs operates the facility.
Pat Sawyer, who leads the arts and crafts project for Three Trees, explained the importance of raising funds for these children.
"Arts and crafts are a wonderful way to teach many things to children,” Sawyer said. “It teaches the specific skills, it enables children to actually create something but it also teaches children the importance of sharing, co-operation and communication with each other, Some people who do not excell at other things often shine at arts and crafts, demonstrating a level of equality of abilities and place in a community.
" For children who have very few personal possessions, few organised activities and no access to school for the majority, being able to provide the fun and creativity available in doing arts and crafts is wonderful."
As an artist and volunteer on holiday, Chris decided that the Ba Vi project a perfect use of his two months in Vietnam.
“I have found my Thursdays with the children of Ba Vi very rewarding,” Hess said. “It amazes me that these children have learned to be kind and funny, and to connect with foreign volunteers, when they never had parents to teach them. I think of the great advantages in my life, that I have a loving family and a good education in a rich country, and I feel it is necessary for me to help them. These children’s lives are full of difficulties and they have so little, which means that I have seen fast success in my short time with them.”
Hess performed classical pieces by composers Frederic Chopin, Claude Debussy, Alberto Ginastera, Enrique Granados, and Robert Schumann. He told the story of how he learned the piano starting at the age of four from his father and aunt, and hated practicing as a child. Hess started to play again as an adult and last performed two years ago. He also spoke about how the music reflected his personality and stories from his life—of romance, joy, loneliness, and being true to himself in different situations and countries.
Among the many memorable children in the Ba Vi shelter is a young woman disabled by Agent Orange exposure who plays piano. She primarily taught herself after getting basic lessons from a foreign volunteer on a donated keyboard, and plays Vietnamese popular songs. She is especially unique as a pianist because she only has four fingers on her two hands (a thumb and two fingers on the right, and only a thumb on the left).