Stories

Vee still cries every day over the loss of her son and grandson after a flood destroyed their village in southern Laos in July 2018.

While her five-year-old grandson’s body has since been recovered, the mother of seven is still mourning the absence of her son, whom she last saw drifting in the water with her grandson.

“It has been a terrible nightmare,” Vee says. “I think about my son and my grandson every day. I cry and I can’t sleep, because when I close my eyes I see terrible images in my mind.”

It was about 9 or 10pm when water first began creeping into the house, Vee remembers.

She thought the water wouldn’t reach the second floor but it continued to rise, forcing Vee and her family to flee the house.

They piled into an old boat and hung onto a tree, when the power in the village suddenly cut off. “There was a lot of noise and people began shouting very loudly,” Vee says.

Parts of homes and people’s possessions floated all around them. Suddenly, a large log smashed into the boat, hitting her daughter’s face and knocking her grandson into the water. “My son jumped out of the boat to save him,” Vee says. “He carried my grandson up to the surface and both of them were floating.

“That was the last I saw of them.”

With Christmas around the corner, we’re interviewing ChildFund supporters to find out what the festive season means to them and what motivates them to buy Gifts for Good.

For Carol Vleeskens the perfect Christmas gift is one that’s meaningful for both the donor and the recipient, and benefits the wider community.

Every year for the past nine years, the New South Wales resident has bought her Christmas presents from ChildFund’s Gifts for Good catalogue, which supports disadvantaged children and families around the world.

Among the gifts she’s purchased are solar lamps for children living in homes without electricity, ducks for families, and study sets and sports equipment for children.

Giving Gifts for Good is about sharing a part of herself with her loved ones, says Carol. Social justice is an area close to her heart and she has had a long history working with NGOs in the areas of social welfare and child protection.

“When I first started buying Gifts for Good I was looking for opportunities to support charities in a way that I felt like I could share with people around me that I was passionate about a particular cause,” she says.

It’s about “stirring the social justice gene”, says Carol, and she hopes the Gifts for Good her friends and family receive inspire them to help disadvantaged communities.

“It’s about getting people to recognise that ‘things’ aren’t important as we live in an amazingly privileged country and time, and there are many people who don’t have the same opportunities,” she says.

Each Gift for Good she buys has been carefully considered. She makes sure the gifts align with the recipients’ personalities or interests.

“I will try and match the gift to the person,” Carol says. “For example, I have a friend who works in public health so I gave her the gift that provides children with mosquito nets.”

“If I know someone who is a really good leader in their community, I’ll give them a gift that’s about empowering children and youth to become leaders in their community.

“If I know someone who is passionate about gardening I might give them one about seeds or trees.”

In addition to being an expression of her values and having meaning for her friends and family, buying Gifts for Good is easy.

“Gifts for good is fantastic because I don’t have to think!” Carol says. “I don’t have to go to the shops and spend time thinking about what someone has or doesn’t have, or if something is in their colour scheme. I don’t have to don’t do any of that.”

Carol buys Gifts for Good a couple of times a year and gives them as Christmas and birthday presents.

“I buy a whole heap and keep the Gifts for Good cards in my cupboards because don’t go off and get eaten like my chocolates!”