23 April 2012
International project helps Agent Orange children
An Australian-backed day care centre for children affected by Agent Orange has opened in central Vietnam.
Australian not-for-profit organisation Architects Without Frontiers has worked with a Vietnam-based British NGO, the Kianh Foundation, and RMIT University since 2008 to design and build the Dien Ban Disability Day Care Centre. RMIT financed the majority of the project.
The centre supports children with disability in Dien Ban, near Hoi An – an area greatly affected by the use of Agent Orange in the war.
RMIT Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Margaret Gardner AO, said the day care centre would fill a pressing need.
“According to the Vietnam Red Cross, in some villages one in 10 children suffers a serious birth defect such as spina bifida, cerebral palsy, physical and or mental retardation, missing or deformed limbs.
“As a global university technology and design with two campuses in Vietnam, RMIT is ideally placed to contribute to a Vietnamese community while involving our design and construction students from campuses in Australia and Vietnam in such a project.”
Architects without Frontiers founder and RMIT academic and Australian Research Council Future Fellow, Associate Professor Esther Charlesworth, supervised the students in an innovative multi-disciplinary studio, alongside Australian architects Büro.
Associate Professor Charlesworth said: “The prevalence of disability is very high, while the availability of disability services is very low. The centre will provide urgent health, physiotherapy and educational services.”
The Kianh Foundation, which has been helping children with disadvantage or disability at a government-owned Hoi An orphanage since 2002, approached Architects Without Frontiers for help in designing and building a separate, purpose-designed disability centre in Dien Ban.
Some 42 million litres of Agent Orange were sprayed in Vietnam between 1961 and 1971. The area around Dien Ban was sprayed eight times, with an average concentration of 185 litres per hectare of dioxin-based agents.
Even tiny amounts of dioxin have been associated with severe health damage that can shorten the lives of exposed people, and the lives of their children and future generations.
Students from RMIT campuses in Australia and Vietnam took part in designing and constructing the building.
RMIT’s Dr Esther Charlesworth (left) with others at the opening ceremony.
Some of the children who will be using the new centre, pictured during Tet new year celebrations earlier this year.
The entrance to the new centre.
A plaque on the new centre’s wall.
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