Monday, August 12, 2013

Stay Connected

Hi everyone,

We have opted to focus on using Facebook and Twitter to keep you informed on what we're up to, so we we will no longer be using this blog. To stay connected with us, please make sure you are following us through social media and that you're subscribed to our newsletter.

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Thank you!

~ Eliza and the GVNF Team

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Keep up to date!

Here at GVN Foundation, a large majority of our work revolves around a global fundraising campaing called Eat So They Can, which many of you will have heard of. Preparations for the 2011 Eat So They Can campaign are well under way, and we are looking forward to what will hopefully be a very successful rest of the year.

We just thought we should let you all know that the best way to get all the news on what is happening at GVN Foundation and Eat So They Can is to follow the Eat So They Can blog, Twitter, or Facebook page. Links to each of these can be found below.

Thanks, and have a great weekend!!/EatSoTheyCan

Monday, June 6, 2011

Mission: Accomplished!

We finished! After some serious "hills" (right Andrea? HILLS, not mountains, just tell yourself hills!) yesterday we completed the cycling portion of the trip. Ending in Hoi An, the cyclists were enthusiastically greeted by the cycling support crew with banners and champagne to congratulate every rider as he/she arrived. As my injury had caused one butt-cheek to double in size, I was unable to ride and was waiting to toast the riders as they came in.

Champagne finish for the cyclists!
Our "tourist" day in Hoi An started the following morning with a short tour of the city; Hoi An was a very busy commercial port in the 16th and 17th centuries and merchants from Japan, China, Holland, India all came here to trade. Almost all of architecture including streets, ports, and  civil and religious buildings are still intact. Hoi An is also well known for their amazing tailors and seamstresses. Many tourists come here with an idea in mind they pull from a magazine and see it come to life, custom-fit for their shape. 

Woman at the market in Hoi An, Vietnam

The afternoon was left open with the purpose of allowing everyone to run errands, shop for souvenirs and tour the city at their own pace. Another tempting option was to head to the beach or get a massage! This was the last night with our amazing cycling support crew so of course a nice dinner followed by a little Vietnamese accoustic singing and a spontaneous performance by our favorite male cyclists, Steve and John which left, we went to bed with the realization that though the heat and long days of cycling were a challenge, we were leaving with new friends and a mission, accomplished!

Caitie Goddard

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Day 7: Banh Mi and Babies!

The morning started with our first banh mi opla experience. Banh Mi Opla (pronounced 'bahn me o-plah') is a traditional Vietnamese breakfast sandwich sold on virtually every corner. It usually consists of 2 eggs inside a baguette along with the option of beef, cucumber, tomato, and cilantro topped with soy sauce. It's delicious! We sat down in a Vietnamese café and enjoyed being the only tourists in the entire place. The other must-try treat of Vietnam is their coffee, much different than a Western style morning brew. There are 2 traditional options; café Saigon (iced espresso with condensed milk) or café da (espresso on ice with sugar) Both will have your heart pumping and enough energy to last for hours. Fully fueled, we were ready to head to the Tam Ky Baby Orphanage. I knew I'd probably have to drag a few cyclists out once they got to meet the kids!
Natasha and Steve demonstrating proper Bahn Mi Opla form
Since I had a minor (minor mom, MINOR) incident a few days earlier, I was out of commission for the biking aspect and arrived early to the Orphanage. I wish the cyclists could have seen the massive effort the caretakers made to have the kids ready to greet everyone as they cycled up to the door! Unfortunately, the attention span of 1-5 year old kids is the same across cultures and continents and after realizing that the van is a biiiit faster than cyclists, the enthusiastic greeting had to be forgotten.
After 5 minutes, the only 2 curious kids left!
When the cyclists did arrive, the attention returned fully and I'm sure we'd all like to believe these young children were so enraptured with us due to our incredible athletic accomplishment or our wonderful fundraising initiatives but I have a feeling it was more the frozen yogurt and stickers that came with us. Shireen's clever idea to brings heaps of stickers and the bikers handing out yogurts to each and every kid meant we again were the stars! After helping everyone to their snacks, it was time to head in and learn more about the kids and the Orphanage they call home.
Betsy and her new admirer
 The Tam Ky baby orphanage houses roughly 35 children ages 0-6 from around Vietnam. The term "orphan" is used in Vietnam to indicate a child either has no parents or 1 parent still alive. For many single parents or children raised by extended family, especially those living and working in the countryside, they cannot afford to take care of their children and realize they have a better opportunity and quality of life if they are in an orphanage. The bad news is that not all orphanages are well taken care of or have enough staff to fully support the children. The good news is that the Tam Ky baby orphanage is not one of them! The ultimate goal for the Tam Ky baby orphanage is for every child to attend and complete elementary school while still in the orphanage. GVN Vietnam sends volunteers to the orphanage to provide vitamins, extra food and to teach English and music. Part of the fee volunteers pay also helps to cover the salary of the teachers and nurse. What I'm so excited about is that through the fundraising efforts of the cyclists, further educational and medical needs of the children will be met. Their hard work will change the lives of 35 children who deserve the very best foundation for their future!
Still trying to figure out how to sneak this one home with me!

Caitie Goddard
GVN Foundation
Program Development Coordinator

To support the children we are fund-raising for, click here!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Day 6: Not Everyone is a Cycling Fan!

We've never felt so welcomed!
After three very tough days cycling hundreds of kilometers, I think everyone was excited to have a "light" day of cycling and meet more of the children their fundraising supports! We started off the day cycling to Little School where we could not have asked for a better greeting. Dressed in some of their best outfits, the children showed off their talents including singing and dancing for all of us. It was hard not to be impressed. Well choreographed routines by children younger than half my wardrobe were amazing! It was also a wonderful opportunity to see how talented and creative these kids are.
Jazz hands!
 Some of the funding raised from the cyclists will go to support nutrition programs at the Little School. Perhaps for some, this might be the one meal a day that provides needed vitamins and protein to help them concentrate, stay active and give them the best opportunity to learn. The staff and students really showed their appreciation and in turn, were a bit...impressed themselves; it seems the idea that we chose to bike when we can afford a motorbike or car does not always translate. "So you sweat and bike for hours when you could afford to just get a taxi and get to the next spot in an hour?" While the staff appreciated our contribution and enthusiasm, I think we also left them with the impression that we are a bit crazy!
I don't see this working out...
Our next stop was the Home of Affection where we met with disabled children who will receive funding for a food program including daily milk and fruit to increase the nutritive content they receive. We had a chance to meet 2 GVN volunteers who have spend over a month working with these kids as well as their 24/7 caretakers who have a very challenging job of making sure these children are loved and taken care of. I think everyone left feeling fortunate for their health and by comparison, wealth- but also with the sense that it is absolutely possible to make an impact in the lives of others! 
Joy spreading her contagious enthusiasm to the kids!

With a bit more biking to do (and I'm happy to report at this point we now refer to a "bit" as being 40km!) everyone jumped back on their bikes to finish out the day's cycling. It was one of our longest days as after cycling for a few hours, we jumped in the vans to head to Tam Ky where further project visits and cycling awaits! I believe the several hour trip was a memorable one for all and while I take the blame for the music (who burns 5 cds and accidently makes them all the same? What can I say, it's a talent) I will not take the blame for the van to van theft of cold drinks.  Vietnam has no rule on beverages while NOT driving (we never condone drinking and driving!!) so the trip was much more entertaining as a result. "Oi Joy Oi!"
We know how to ride hard but we also know how to rest hard!

To support our cycling trip and donate to the Children's Fund, please visit

Caitie Goddard
Program Development Coordinator
GVN Foundation

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Day 5: All's well till.....

Note: Due to lack of internet, and the whole "cycling" thing, all posts are delayed. This post was written by Jen Flynn, co-leader of the cycling challenge with GVN Foundation's Caitie Goddard

Well, we all knew there would be some hills on this bike trek but REALLY??? We drove out from the hotel to bypass some dangerous spots along Hwy 1 and dropped out bikes about 20 km out from our first 'hill'. (we refused to call anything a mountain just for psychological reasons!)  Once our legs were warmed up from the semi flat riding, we approached our first 'hill' - the smaller of the two.
Pep talk time! Guys, this "hill" might be tough...
Hill #1 was a challenge in itself, partly because you don't know how steep or long it is... There are continuous curves that make you think you've just hit the peak, then surprise..... more climbing.  But we all conqured the hill and felt great! Despit the heat, we were ready for our biggest challenge yet - Hill #2.  This hill took every ounce of power and determination.. you know it's steep when you can out pedal a semi truck that is struggling to make it to the top! I think my average speed up this hill was about 7 km/hr... I went through all my Kick Butt Music to make it up - Mostly following Steven and Mr. Khai we finally made it up to the summit! High fives all around... then just moments later - we got to enjoy the massive downhill! I'll admit, I hit the brakes more than once to ensure I'd stay on the road at the turns but it was an awesome downhill.
Bike tour leader and cycling guides get tired too!
 Upon reaching the flats - we were able to see once again the beautiful scenery of Vietnam - the rice fields, old women drying rice (still in the husks) out in the road, the kids biking to school and the water buffalo in the fields. As some of us were resting about 10 km or so after the downhill, we got a call from Caitie about an accident that occurred just up the road. Caitie had been biking alone for a bit and had been hit from behind by a drunk moto driver! By the time we got to her, the police and ambulance had arrived and they were 'marking the scene' with white paint to show where Caitie's bike and the moto lay, the man's body (he wound up being ok after a trip to the hospital), his shoes and Caities 'stuff' that flew from her bike. Thankfully, Caitie was ok - VERY bruised and scraped up but otherwise very lucky.

Miiiiles and miles of rice fields!

This was our only real scary event of the trip - despite losing Joy for about an hour - Hey - if you're gonna have a big day, let's make it a good one huh?? (So said Joy upon reaching the hotel....) Oi troi oi!!

After quick showers and an intro from Mr. Viet the E.D. of GVN Vietnam, it was time to introduce the bikers to the kids!! We arrived at the Tuy Hoa Home of Affection 5pm to about 40 kids who clapped and cheered for all of us. Three kids sang some songs and danced and we saw the results of sponsorship from donors around the world who are paying $300 USD per year to sponsor these kids. Many started their lives in broken homes and wound up out of school and working on the streets as young as 6 yrs old. They did everything from beg for money to collect recycled cans to peddle lottery tickets. Thanks to the sponsors, they are OFF the streets and not only in public schools but also attending night school to catch up on VN subjects and to learn English from GVN Vietnam volunteers. The bikers raised money and some of the funds are going toward school supplies and dinner that is served 3 x per week at this school.
Cyclists at GVN supported Home of Affection
 After the meet n greet, we all 11 bikers, staff and 40 kids - went across the street to the fresh spring roll shop and stuffed ourselves for an hour! Eating with the kids is a treat as they love to make the rolls for their guests and see just how many we can eat! We finished the night on a yacht (bear in mind, this IS Vietnam) drinking beer and vodka, getting to know each other better and celebrating our accomplishments thus far.
Cyclist Natasha at dinner with 2 new friends!

To support the children we are fund-raising for, click here!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Day 4: Meet the Cyclists

Cycling wise, today was the hardest day of our trip. Waking up in Phan Tiet we started out the morning with another delicious Vietnamese style breakfast including noodles, rice, an assortment of meats and stews and the only thing familiar to me-the omelette station! Battling whether to try everything and fill up for the ride or eat in moderation, I went with Steve’s mantra of “time for another plate” and enjoyed 2!
Ready for our longest cycling day!
 Biking started out exactly how it finished yesterday; right outside of the hotel. Everyone hopped on their bikes and cycled out of the gates to begin over 6 hours on the roads. The middle of the day from about 11:30-2:00 is extremely hot so our goal was to accomplish about 80 kilometers in the morning, before the heat set in. Along with guides who ride in the front and back, a routine has been established; for the first 20 minutes, we ride as a pack with everyone going about the same pace. Soon Steve, the aptly nicknamed, “the mayor”  (for not only his physical stature but also his tendency to wave to everyone he sees in the villages we pass) breaks away from the pack and pedaling at half the speed as everyone else, still manages to double our pace. Following behind is you'll find:

Super-athlete Shireen who humbly states that she’s not that fit because the triathlon she did was in November and since then, she’s ONLY done a 50 mile run. No, not 50 miles total, 50 miles ALL AT ONCE.

Group leader Jen who claims she is out of shape or "not as young anymore" but will come out of nowhere and lead the pack for miles.

Our portable computer technician John who consistently plugs along, always near the front.

Narelle AKA “Lance” who you won’t see for miles until a massive hill comes along and all of a sudden while you are giving all your energy just to keep pedaling, she will blow by you as if she’s on a flat surface and smile while at it.

I’m usually somewhere in this group pretending I belong. Rounding up the group are: 

Determind Natasha, our youngest team member who even after suffering from the heat, jumped back into it and never loses her smile.

My personal hero Betsy who although one of the older team members, is always willing to go and give it a shot, never complaining and even mastering some serious hills!

Event attired Joy who has been in enough running and cycling events that every day she has on another example of how awesomely involved and sporty she is and an explanation of how she supported one cause or another through her efforts.

Barbie professor Andrea, who not only loves to coordinate her outfits and have a great tan but also has to think about which of the 6 tops schools she wants to go to for her MBA all while going through an intense physical challenge. Oh, and she dances and sings while biking too. This girl does everything!

Following the group in one of the support vans is Kate, a former GVN Vietnam volunteer and nurse from Australia who not only cheers and supports us for every kilometer but also brought her med kit, drugs (the legal ones) and an amazing assortment of trail mix, gummies and muesli bars to keep us going. All cyclists should be so lucky to have themselves a Kate. We are a very fortunate group!

The routine includes 1-2 hours of biking followed by a short break including a fill-up on water bottles and snacks before heading out again. Mastering 80 kilometers in 35 degree heat, we hopped in the van for lunch on the go and headed to the afternoon portion of cycling. 

Appearances are deceiving. At this point I was exhausted!
The afternoon involved us having to make some tough decisions: while we wanted to push ourselves and ride as long as possible, we were also aware that we had a limited time before it became dark and cycling became more dangerous in the cities. For the mayor, this was not a problem. This former professional rugby player could have been (and probably still has some potential) to become a professional cyclist. Determined to ride until we dragged him in or he reached the next hotel, we dropped him off early. Another group, including myself, ventured out at the next drop-off point to cycle another 45 km until reaching Nha Trang and the third group went to the 25 km mark. All groups (and Steve) managed to make it back to the hotel before it got too dark and to be honest, I think we were all pretty impressed with ourselves and proud we had toughed out a very challenging day!

Steve and Shireen, ready for any challenge!

Caitie Goddard
GVN Foundation
Program Development Coordinator

To support the children we are cycling for, click here!