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lynk2510
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Join date : 2011-01-31

PostSubject: Many of the young artists    Thu Apr 28, 2011 2:02 am

Foundation mends Vietnamese hearts

By Bob Pool, Los Angeles Times, 9 April 2011



As she so often does, Marichia Simcik Arese will host one of her unusual crafts boutiques this weekend at her Pacific Palisades home. And two days after that she will head for Vietnam to encourage the disabled young artists who create chic water bottle carriers, tote bags and eye-catching picture frames to keep producing their stylish goods from discarded plastic bottles, old bicycle tires and recycled aluminum cans.

Since 1998, Arese's do-it-yourself Spiral Foundation has raised more than $1.6 million selling the handmade items to finance heart operations for Vietnamese suffering from congenital heart diseases and other genetic conditionsbelieved to be tied to the spraying of Agent Orange during theVietnam War. The sales have paid for 380 heart surgeries so far at a medical clinic in Hue that has come to rely on the 57-year-old Pacific Palisades woman's boutiques and on individual gift bazaars staged by a network of her supporters.

Arese travels three times a year to the Southeast Asian nation, spending about a month there as she helps drum up business for a gift store she has helped them establish in Hue: the Healing The Wounded Heart shop. The Italian-born Arese doesn't hesitate to approach American and European tourists she spots on Hue's streets. "Hi. We have a shop down there and it's a nonprofit. We sell beautiful, eco-friendly items and all the money we make is used for humanitarian aid," she tells them. "Approaching complete strangers is rather easy. I tell them that instead of buying a souvenir that has no added value, tourists can buy nice items made of recycled items. They are helping to fund heart surgeries and employ the disabled."

Many of the young artists who make the gift items and work at the shop are deaf and mute or paralyzed. There is no official Vietnamese sign language, so many of the young people have devised their own. Others communicate with computers provided by the Spiral Foundation. Arese does not blame Agent Orange, the defoliant used by the United States to destroy vegetation that hid communist forces during the war, for causing all the birth defects and other medical problems some young Vietnamese face. "aBut certainly in Vietnm, when these kids were born, there was very little early intervention. They were left on the side; very little opportunity was given them," she said. During her visits, Arese makes a point of introducing the 40 or so young artisans and shop workers to patients who have benefited from the cardiac surgery their handiwork has paid for. They come away realizing that their work has turned them into donors too, she said.

Dr. Nguyen Viet Nhan, director of the Office of Genetic Counseling and Disabled Children at the Hue College of Medicine and Pharmacy, describes Arese as the clinic's "special sponsor from Los Angeles."
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