Friendship Village

Kip Harris

2016

The scars of war are deep and very slow healing. That is true of all wars but particularly in what is known in America as the “Vietnam War.” An entire generation with their families, children, friends, and society at large on both sides still carry the legacy of that war.

The US sprayed twelve thousand square miles of Vietnam with Agent Orange and other defoliants resulting in massive ecological damage and unbalancing of the food chain. Rural society was uprooted. In spite of (or maybe because of) Curtis LeMay’s comment that: “…we’re going to bomb them back into the stone age,” the scale of destruction of farmlands by blanket bombing resulted in large scale resettlement in urban areas providing an energetic workforce for the rapid industrialization that has occurred.

Vietnam Friendship Village was established through the efforts of George Mizo, a US veteran of the war, and others involved in the reconciliation movement. The founding vision was to provide a residential facility to aid Vietnamese children and veterans. Much of this assistance has addressed problems related to the effects of Agent Orange.

The complex is located in a suburb of Hanoi–that grey transitional zone between the traditional rural society and the spreading world of exposed concrete residential towers, air pollution, and motorcycles. It provides care to 100-120 children and about 40 adults at any one time. In spite of the Friendship Village’s grim bureaucratic buildings and environment, it is a place of healing and promise. These photographs were taken there in March 2016.

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