Australians are a band of travellers covering areas vast and wide. Not only do we travel young, we travel in packs. We also travel alone. We travel pre-marriage, post-marriage, pregnant, with babies and with kids of all ages. We also travel in yummy mummy packs – usually known as a ‘girls’ getaway’.
Dani Moger (pictured above, second from right) is an incredibly well-travelled, adventurous soul. She’s been to more countries than I have fingers or toes, and having young kids doesn’t stop her and her family from travelling as frequently as time and money allows.
When Moger, a Melbourne mum of two kids under five, lured three old school friends into the idea of a girls’ getaway, she didn’t imagine it would morph into the journey of a lifetime, affecting the lives of many people, not just this intrepid quartet of mums Moger, Nicole Barrow, Laurie Checketts and Michelle Mathews.
“Earlier this year, Nicole and I were discussing travelling,” Moger tells Australian Women Online. “I am absolutely addicted to travel and have to admit that I really only work so I can go on my next adventure. Nicole was inspired by the suggestion to make something ‘more’ of our trip, and this is where the whole idea was born. We sent an email out and had another two takers in Michelle and Laurie.”
Moger promised her friends she’d not only take them to a place that would make it clear they “weren’t in Kansas anymore, Toto”, but also a place that would bring them an enormous sense of satisfaction by reaching out to the impoverished children of Vietnam.
Although she has travelled all over the world, choosing Vietnam as a destination for this charitable journey was easy. Moger and husband Nick have spent a large amount of time in Vietnam and it’s a place they both have a deep spiritual connection with.
“Vietnam for me is like that kid you went to school with that just keeps turning up in your life, in the most bizarre places. It is somewhere I would love to live one day and I have a very strong feeling that it will play an important part in my family’s future,” says Moger. “My husband speaks the language and even though I have only been there a few times, it really grabbed me. Almost inexplicably. “
After stints in East Timor and Cyprus for her husband’s work, Moger consistently feels inspired to do more ‘responsible travelling’.
“Responsible travelling is giving something back to a place you take so much away from – in terms of beauty and life experience. I think it is a beautiful concept and can turn just another holiday into something you will never forget,” smiles Moger, whose compassion for what she’s doing is more than clear.
The four Aussie mums, who are due to depart for Ho Chi Minh City on September 6, became so impassioned about their holiday, they opened a Facebook group entitled ‘Mums Making a Difference’, which has since gathered almost 100 followers and has raised a whopping $1,500 and a plethora of goodies for the Christina Noble Children’s Foundation (CNCF).
CNCF is dedicated to helping young Vietnamese children in need with education, medical care, social opportunities and job placement. All of this is done with love, dignity and respect for each child as an individual. A lot of these children would still be on the streets if it was not for the hard work and dedication of ‘Mama Tina’.
“Many years ago, I read a book called ‘Bridge Across My Sorrows’ by Christina Noble,” remembers Moger. “Some books stay with you forever and this was one that really resonated with me. This amazing Irish woman had a tragic childhood, and in 1971, she had a vision of a child with its arms outstretched and the word ‘Vietnam’ behind it. She never forgot. Twenty years later she went to Vietnam, stood amongst the street kids… and there she saw a child with her arms outstretched in front of a billboard with the words ‘Vietnam’ on it.”
The Christina Noble Childrens Foundation was born, and Moger and her friends are now keen to help Tina’s vision in any way they can. “…You cannot imagine what this foundation means to the street children of Vietnam…”
“We have received an incredible amount of items to take with us – toothbrushes and paste, pencils, a play parachute, Band-Aids, thermometers, glucose drips, anti lice and scabies treatments, even party supplies!” laughs Moger who says all kids’ birthdays are celebrated in Vietnam. She also adds that the group have received girls’ hair accessories. “All little girls need to feel pretty, I say!” says Moger.
The group has also received a huge amount of clothes, toys and school and art supplies, which has really overwhelmed these dedicates mums.
“Laurie’s little boy suffers from autism,” adds Moger, “So she has a particular interest in special needs kids, and has a lot of supplies organised for them – stuff that her son Noah finds effective like sensory toys.”
In a wonderful show of support, Singapore Airlines has given the group an extra 40 kilograms of luggage weight, to help get all the goodies to their location. The $1,500 cash will allow these mums to buy bicycles and helmets for the kids, as bikes are a very valuable commodity for families in Vietnam. Not only do they allow children to travel long distances to school, they also enable families to seek and secure regular employment opportunities. The cost for a good quality bicycle is only US$48.
“You cannot imagine what this foundation means to the street children of Vietnam. Christina Noble has changed their lives. The foundation now has a Sunshine School, a medical and dental centre, a social centre for disadvantaged children, residential care for both boys and girls and an education support centre,” Moger tells AWO.
“We are so happy to donate this money for bicycles. A bike for a child over there is unbelievably important. It means a child can get to school and get an education. A bike makes this possible and if these kids can get an education, the possibilities are endless.”
Moger feels impassioned about helping these children after seeing the way they live. Many children work through the night to earn money for their families, and then try to get to school during the day – a routine that would be unheard of in the Australian community.
After this life-changing trip, Moger and her friends will no doubt be busy planning their second fund raising effort – an effort that will hopefully raise awareness in all Australians to consider their own ‘responsible travelling’.
“To be honest, I don’t know why more people don’t create these kinds of voyages. Maybe people just don’t realise how much they can do – with so little,” admits Moger.
“At times I almost feel selfish about this charity drive – the joy we are getting from doing it is just that incredible. I can guarantee that for us, this will be the highlight of our whole Vietnam journey, and I know it will not end when we say goodbye to these beautiful children. This is the beginning of a relationship and a responsibility that will last a lifetime.”
Moger’s words are so inspiring. Can you imagine if, on every trip we make overseas (with or without our families), we do a little bit to make a difference in the lives of impoverished women and children? What an incredibly enriching and rewarding life experience it would be for our own children to travel with us and hold witness to such generosity… and love.
“I try not to get too soppy about this, but as I get older, I truly believe that the most important thing in the world is love. People need to know that other people DO care. These Vietnamese children have often had their childhood taken away from them. They have been forced to mature and hold responsibilities well beyond their years,” says Moger.
“Let the children of the world be children. God knows it does not last. As four mums, the one thing we are the best at is giving love. There is always room in our hearts for more.”
Visit the Christina Noble Children’s Foundation – http://www.cncf.org/en/home/index.php
And see CNCF’s all-important wishlist here – http://www.cncf.org/en/how_to_help/generalwishlist.php
Want to learn more about the Mums Making a Difference in Ho Chi Minh City? Head to the girls’ Facebook group – http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=549909561&ref=profile#/group.php?gid=133443011448
If you would like to surprise this ecstatic group of mums with a donation, you can do so right now with the account details below:
Police Association Credit Co-Op
Account name: D.L Moger Vietnam
Account number: 100383852
To contact Dani directly to offer help, email email@example.com.