Woolard gives back to homeland

Published 12:40 am Friday, September 16, 2011

Kim Woolard sits with a young Vietnamese girl who she met during her missionary trip to Vietnam. (Contributed Photo/Kim Woolard)

Not everyone gets to say they have given back to the place where they grew up, especially when it’s on the other side of the world. Kim Woolard, a Beaufort County resident of Vietnamese descent, can say she has done it twice.

Her first trip was in 2009 with Seacoast Church in Mt. Pleasant, S.C. Seacoast, where her daughter attends, was coordinating a mission trip with a group called Vets With A Mission, an organization that sponsors veterans to go back to Vietnam and work in clinics. The mission team was in need of interpreters, and her daughter asked Woolard to join her.

“I wanted to go home and help my people,” Woolard said.

It was very hard work, and most of it was in the jungle. They went to a different village every day and worked in the clinics there. Some of the villages were so remote that their inhabitants didn’t even speak Vietnamese. For those villages, they had brought 10 college students as translators who could speak the languages.

They also brought doctors and dentists who worked on the villagers all day. Some of their patients had never even been to a doctor before. In some situations, operations had to be performed in special circumstances and without conventional equipment. In one village, Woolard had to hold a flashlight for a doctor so he could operate on a boy’s leg.  He had been hit by piece of shrapnel from a land mine.

Woolard returned to Vietnam in July of this year. The trip lasted two weeks, and this time she went with both her daughters and her granddaughter. The trip was done through an organization called Double X Effect, which Woolard’s daughter started with a friend. Its members consist of women from all over the country in medical or education fields. They have taken trips to India, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Haiti to help women in poverty.

The medical team was composed entirely of women, and they helped an average of 180-220 people a day. They spent one week working in women’s clinics in Da Nang, Vietnam, and one week working in orphanages in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

The First Christian Church in Washington raised $5,000 to help two orphanages and sent 400 pounds of rice and 225 pounds of chicken to them, as well as medicine, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and other items.

While in Cambodia, they dug a well for one of the orphanages.

At one of the orphanages, there was a brother and sister, two and three years old. They were two of five siblings, and their mother had not been able to afford raising them. She left all five of her children with their grandmother one day and left to find work in Thailand.  She planned to send money home to support the children. No money made it home, and she was never seen or heard from again. The grandmother was left with five children to feed and was forced to resort to collecting cans to cash-in at scrap centers for money. It wasn’t enough to feed five hungry mouths, so she took the two youngest children and dropped them off in a dumpster outside the orphanage to be found and raised there.

Many of the orphans there had similar stories. Vietnam and Cambodia are countries with a lot of poverty. People like Woolard are able to make an enormous impact on people’s lives through trips like these.

Woolard was thankful to have her daughters and granddaughter with her on this trip.  She was able to take them to Cai Be, the village she grew up in, to see her family.

“I’m so glad I went so they could see where I’m from and where I grew up,” she said.

For Woolard, it felt good to show her daughters their roots.

Woolard is going back in February with her husband Mitchell for Tet, the Vietnamese New Year. As much as she’s enjoyed her mission experiences, this time will be for a well-deserved vacation.

“We’re going everywhere,” she said with a laugh.