It’s not every day you meet a human who is kind enough to put their own life on hold to bring joy into the life of another. Sharon Thompson is one of these people, and for eight consecutive years, she spent months at a time to bring daily joy and love to children at an orphanage in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Sadly there are around a million orphans in Vietnam, and the day I spent with Sharon was in many ways harrowing. But in these photos, my goal was not to show the pain or to shock you, but to show the joy amongst the hardship and how one person through the simple but radical act of enduring kindness can make a world of difference.

An integral factor of the kindness is the consistency of her visits, establishing trust, connection and mutual respect with the tenderness she gave and the sense of “normality” and family she provided. Sharon had previously volunteered with disabled children from 8 years of age, so brought with her an abundance of experience and skill to her volunteer role.

Recently Sharon made the difficult decision to cease her work. She no longer wanted to inspire anyone to visit an orphanage, as over the years she would see well-meaning ‘tourists’ come with no knowledge of the complexity of the work and spend some time, but not provide the children with the safe space to foster a connection and establish healthy and sustainable attachment. Ultimately, these children should be with their families but are not (for various reasons), these “orphans” actually have living parents, and unfortunately, they are placed in institutions where they are often exploited as “Freak Shows” for money. It’s a different world.

Her comfort is in the knowledge that when their time comes, their life review will feature love.

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