Price resident Terry Willis often goes clear across the world to Vietnam with an organization she is proud to be a part of.
Willis belongs to Soroptimist International of Price, a service organization that is fully intended to help women. Raising money for projects to help women and girls in the local area is just one of a number of things she does as part of the group. A familiar project community members might know is November Wine Tasting, which revolves around working with women who are cancer patients. They take the women to a spa for the day where they get a day to relax. They also give scholarships to women through their Live Your Dream Awards, which helps single or head-of-household women go back to finish their schooling or get into another degree.
Through Soroptimist, Willis has found an organization called Children of Peace. Leading this group is highly respected Binh Rybacki, who grew up in Vietnam. Rybacki supports education to get individuals out of poverty. She helps kids have the opportunity to learn more about school, helps them financially and gives bikes to children whose schools are many miles away from their homes. Also, Dignity dresses are given out to girls who come from poor families. It’s a dress that’s made from a pillow case, which is easy to make and much needed as girls who don’t have dresses in Vietnam can be treated poorly. Anything to help outreach needs in the community is what Children of Peace does.
Rybacki also helps out by setting up medical missions in Vietnam. These medical clinics consist of basic check-ups such as dental, eye, ear cleaning, hygiene, vitals and more. Willis met Rybacki at a Soroptimist convention and knew right then she wanted to be part of the Children of Peace. It took a whole year of saving and paperwork for Willis to be able to go to Vietnam, but when she finally had the opportunity to go, it was all worth it.
Willis has now gone to Vietnam to be part of medical missions for four years. Her husband, Dennis Willis, has gone the last three with her, serving as an EMT at the nurse’s station for the clinic. Terry assists at the clinic by playing with kids, singing songs and doing crafts. Children in line for a check-up enjoy having the medical mission staff interact with them and the staff helps them stay entertained. During these medical missions the heat, humidity and mosquitoes can be outrageously high in numbers. All that doesn’t matter to Willis and her husband. They enjoy helping the children, adults and teens at the clinic.
The medical mission sets up about eight clinics in different areas throughout the mission, which serve about 150-250 people a day. With this amount of people, the organization is lucky to have all their supplies donated. Terry and her husband brought about 75 pounds of medical supplies and toys for the Vietnamese clinics. They didn’t pack a lot of clothes, just a few things to get them through a couple of days. Instead, they pack supplies that they will need at the clinic.
Terry and Dennis previously had the opportunity to choose a child in Vietnam to sponsor and donate money to help him get an education. They had the chance to meet him while in Vietnam. These children like to know somebody cares about them and are often excited and proud when people come to see them. The most rewarding experience from going to Vietnam for Terry is seeing the kids. She has enjoyed watching kids grow from previous years and seeing them have the opportunities they have now. Terry explained that if they hadn’t had those opportunities from this organization, they would have ended up in orphanages because their parents abandoned them.
Terry’s favorite memory is of a down-syndrome Vietnamese boy.
“The first year I went, they brought him into the clinic and he didn’t want anything to do with it,” she explained. “He fought the doctors. People had to hold him down. The next year after that he was more clam and participated. The third year he himself was able to help other kids at the clinic. This last year, he has a job serving lunch and dinner. It isn’t much but he has a purpose to be proud of. He walked by me with his head held high and would wave with a big smile on his face. I love to see kids succeed, see them develop and see them step out and become something for themselves.”
Terry and Dennis are grateful for the opportunity they have to be part of an organization they love so much. If anyone is looking into a humanitarian service trip, Children of Peace is a great organization filled with great people. They do get to see a little sight-seeing with this group, but helping the Vietnamese is far better.