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2015 Charity Dinner – Bookings now open

Platypus Charity is holding its annual fund raising Dinner event in support of its education projects in Vietnam. This years event will be held at the Amarin Thai Restaurant in Rokeby Road Subiaco. There are only 120 seats and they are selling fast, so be quick. We would love the see you all there supporting this great cause. Platypus now supports 200 ethnic minority children each year to obtain another year of schooling to further their education. We plan to expand this number but it is highly dependent on funds raised from our generous supporters from events like this dinner.

2015 Dinner Invite

Click invite to enlarge

This years dinner is shaping up to be a fantastic evening of fun and great food. We will be entertained by Jay Weston while we sip on some of the best Wine this state produces in Howard Park and MadFish. There will be a door prize raffle and a very entertaining auction performed by Simon McGrath.

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Platypus Mountain Run – North Vietnam 2014

Our second fundraising motorcycle ride around North Vietnam ended in Hanoi on 3 December. Most of our riders were members of the Bunbury Indian Harley Davidson Club who spent 12 days clocking up 2000 km of exhilarating riding. From Hanoi we travelled south-west to Dien Bien Phu before hugging the China border northwards through mountain territory – Sapa, Ha Giang and Meo Vac before returning to Hanoi via Ba Be Lake.

bunbury-lads

The Lads from the Bunbury Indian Harley Davidson Club of Western Australia.

We dropped in on a school near Yen Bai where Platypus supports a number of students and everyone found the visit a touching experience – the financial offerings from our supporters are well spent on a good cause.

The weather gods smiled on us, scenery was spectacular and we spent a fair bit of time on roads less travelled. That ensured time spent on every road surface imaginable with the exception of ice and snow although sometimes we wondered about that; as invariably happens in the mountains we came across landslides, roads under repair and roads in need of repair but these conditions were factored into the schedule and at no stage was anyone pushed into hurrying: average speed was around 45km/hr. There is far too much to be seen and enjoyed to be rushed.

Lake view

Lake view

We ran 150-200cc machines, ideal for the riding conditions, and they were ruthlessly serviced daily by the indefatigable Ngoc who, as always, ensured that each day saw good bikes hitting the road.
Special mention must again be made of the quality service provided by Koony and Ngoc of Asian Lotus Travel, with whom we rode in 2013 also. They are dedicated to putting on a great experience: accommodation was of a high standard, food was excellent and commentary was always informed. They act also as sort of Earth Mothers, mother hens and really good mates.

 

ngoc-and-co

Koony and Ngoc – Fantastic support crew

 

We will ride with them in late 2015 and again in April 2016 when we have a Vietnam/Laos/Vietnam trip. They do 4WD adventure trips and all manner of other things and we cannot recommend them too highly – call them if you want responsibly managed adventure fun.

From a Platypus viewpoint, and a personal one, I found it a great pleasure riding with the group. There was heaps of humour, generosity of spirit and wallet and a terrific bonding with both the country and the people we came across and I was proud to introduce everyone to what has become in some ways my second country.
Thanks for coming, and I expect to see some of you again: same country, different places, maybe an add-on country or two, probably different time. Ride safe, bring joy – Bob Greer.

Please enjoy the pictorial below;

Mountain-clouds

Mountain clouds on route

ravine

Mountain pass ravine

rest stop

A typical rest stop location

bamboo-bridge

Bamboo bridge crossing

Police check

A local police check of the motorbikes gets the all clear.

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Platypus Micro-Bank

micro bank

A satisfied Platypus Micro-Bank client.

Platypus probably scored a world first in banking circles recently, albeit one that is unlikely to trouble banking records.

We interviewed 100% of our lending clients in one day and in one room, and approved all loans!
We were a little cautious about becoming involved in micro-banking as there have been a few negative experiences recorded about the globe. We have no huge reserves of cash anyway, but our members authorised a small trial of $1,000 to support families in mountainous Meo Vac in the mountains of Ha Giang Province.
The original idea was to lend in units of $100 for a period of 1 year but that turned out to be less than ideal as most ventures seem to take about a year to yield a first return. Many of the families that we assist in that region have no savings, so those terms would put them under pressure and that is the worst possible outcome for us all. We decided therefore to extend the loans to 2 years, payable in full at the end of that period so as to minimise stress. We also increased the value of loans to $250 to provide a little more impetus.

The Vietnam Women’s Union is our local partner and they selected 4 candidates from families classed as living in poverty (income of less than VND 400,000 (+-US$20) per adult person p.m.).  Loans were made to the senior woman in each family as the womenfolk are responsible for family finances, education of the children and many other things. The women also have minimal default statistics as they know the future of micro-banking in their community rests on their performance.
The women were excited and presented themselves with great dignity. We do not want to identify them by name, but here are brief portraits:

  • Dinh is 37 years old with 3 children. 2 study in the commune but the oldest is in the district school. She will buy pigs, but may borrow a little more from the Bank for the Poor and invest in a cow.
  • Sua is 64 years old, widowed some 8 years ago after a traffic accident. She helps care for 2 young granddaughters, and the family has 1 cow. They will invest in pigs.
  • Va is 66 years old, married with a son and 2 grand-children. They possess a cow and a pig and will invest in piglets.
  • Say is 36, married, and shares the home with her mother-in-law and 6 daughters. The family owns one piglet and raises a cow for a neighbour.

Looking at the story Deidre’s Gift and Deidre’s Gift – The Sequel, by the time the loans become payable each family will have been able to sell about 8 piglets a year before, and have another 8 or so ready to go. They may have kept an extra couple of piglets, so they could have 4 sows in their pen and exponential piggies for the markets in future years. It is life-changing stuff that will lead to a good measure of financial independence over time.

Ha Giang Province is renowned for its tender beef and pork, so marketing is not a problem and a small premium is usually available to compensate for the tougher mountain conditions.
Deidre’s generous gesture helped highlight to us what can be achieved by what some would see as an insignificant gesture. A buck goes a long way up there and a piglet goes further. Whereas Deidre’s gesture was a gift, we have made loans in the knowledge that in a couple of years the same dollars will be helping another family, and then another.

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Deidre’s Gift

In early September 2013 I was searching for a few used books at a northern suburbs second-hand book store. I was due to head to the mountains in north-west Vietnam to launch the new Platypus programme and knew that electronic entertainment would be unavailable, so I looked forward to a bit of reading.

I struck up a conversation with Deidre, who works in the shop, and Vietnam and the Platypus activities came up in conversation. She suddenly dashed into a small back room and emerged minutes later, brandishing a $50 note.

“Would this do any good there?” she asked.

“$50 is a life changer,” I told her.

It turned out Deirdre was no stranger to tough times, but had enjoyed a helping hand when it mattered and she well knew the value of a bit of help. A new Bentley has proven elusive so far, but she wanted to lend a hand. I accepted het gift and promised I would find a good home for it.

Two weeks later, we hit the mountain road between Ha Giang city and Yen Minh, in Ha Giang Province. We were in far north-west Vietnam, mountainous territory near the China border where well-engineered, narrow and twisting roads provided a challenge to driver and vehicle. We summited before heading back down to a small village that had suffered a major setback recently when an epidemic took a toll of livestock in the area.

On the road to Yen Minh

On the road to Yen Minh

This was a massive disaster as the main activity thereabouts is subsistence farming. The terrain is mostly too steep for rice cultivation so locals compete with rock formations for a little soil for hard-scrabble corn cultivation. Options are limited, with livestock being the precious commodity standing between a family and the toughest of hard times when conditions turn against the locals.

The Women’s Union had purchased two piglets on Deidre’s behalf, and we called on a family that had lost both their animals, effectively the family disaster pool or superannuation fund. It was a very severe loss that they had not been able to recover from. The gift piglets, henceforth known as Laurel and Hardy (Abbott and Costello were ruled out as being too political) were introduced to a stunned family. I failed to appreciate the beauty of these two little beasts, but the oohs and aahs assured me that Deidre had hit the mark.

Laurel and Hardy settling in

Laurel and Hardy settling in

We tried to explain that a mother near Mindarie wanted to help, but folks thereabouts do not as a rule meet westerners and it was all a bit much for them. There was simply no way of explaining Deidre’s motivation, but there was no real need anyway as there was a whole lot of love happening.

A happy family of battlers

A happy family of battlers

Laurel and Hardie settled into their new treated and disinfected digs very quickly and we continued our journey to the sound of contented oinking, and the broadest smiles that a million dollars could possibly buy.

Deidre’s gift presented a fresh start to a worthy family, proving that one should never underestimate the good that can flow from a seemingly modest donation.

Thank you, Deidre.

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Mr Dong – now a successful cyclo business owner

Upon reaching my hotel in Hue during my third visit to Vietnam, I was approached by a
dignified man of perhaps 50 years who offered his services as a cyclo (three-wheel cycle)
guide for the day. He had excellent English, and knew his city intimately, so after a fine day
we dined together. Continue Reading

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Tam – topped her class

A trip to Hanoi in August 2011 revealed an enormous amount of goodwill towards Platypus,
and good advice was offered by officials who work with those doing it tough. Rather than
rush about sprinkling school fees all over the place, a more selective approach will be
employed whereby people will receive what they need.

A family may only need help in purchasing uniforms, or for purchasing food since their child
could only perform limited paid work to assist family finances. In some cases education will
be a joint project involving the child, the family, the education authorities, the Women’s
Union, Platypus and perhaps the local hamlet or village. I have seen such a strange
partnership work very well in a hamlet in Hoa Binh Province, where Huong brought to my
attention the plight of 10 year-old Tam, a youngster I had helped in a small way the year
before.

Bright as a button, Tam faced problems in remaining at school and was destined to become
a farm labourer. Her father has a few issues and is unable to productively cultivate their
land, or undertake regular paid work. Her mother is unusually diminutive, sometimes has
difficulty in expressing herself, and suffers from occasional depression. I take care of Tam’s
school fees. At the request of Tam’s family, I travelled to their home to meet the youngster
who wanted to meet me.

In the past year, Tam has topped her class with progressively-improving marks. Studying
in a single-room little house is difficult, especially when father is home, clouding up the
place with smoke. However, the whole hamlet is proud of Tam, pleased to see her receive
the support she needs and deserves, so she has several work places she can choose from.
The school has entered into the spirit of things: Tam receives extra classes in English and
mathematics, her favourite subject.

It does not end there. Her family needs income and father is unable to work well
consistently, so the hamlet keeps an eye open for employment opportunities for both
parents. Huong’s parents help out from time to time, as do neighbours. Tam has become a
community project and she will go to university so she can return to her village as a teacher
and care for her parents. That is all in train and it will happen.

There is so much more to what Platypus proposes doing. In tough territory, in tough times,
it is not only a matter of helping a child attend school. Lift a child and lift a family, a hamlet,
a village, a district. You give a lot of people a lot of joy and hope, and something to look
forward to with good reason. It’s about time foreigners gave them something good.

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