Today, Da Nang, a central Vietnamese port city of 890,000 people, is
famed for its graceful coastline and is a popular destination for huge
crowds of tourists.
During the Vietnam War, however, the city hosted the largest
base used by the U.S. Air Force, where huge amounts of the Agent Orange
chemical defoliant were manufactured and stored. Highly toxic dioxin,
the main ingredient in Agent Orange, continues to be detected in high
concentrations in the surrounding soil.
A welfare center for Agent Orange survivors is located in a
rural, mountainous area about a 45-minute drive from downtown Da Nang.
It educates children with inborn auditory, mental and other disabilities
in reading and writing and offers them simple forms of rehabilitation.
Some children take the bus, driven by center staff, for more
than an hour to attend the center because no regular school is willing
to accept them. The legacy of the war is vivid, and the children are
bearing the burden.
The children greeted me with slightly shyish smiles when I
visited the center. Some of them made funny gestures in posing for the
camera, whereas others, interested in a smartphone, tried to sweep their
fingers across the screen.
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