Member's projects help children in Vietnam

By Mac Overton

The efforts started by a Church of God member in 1999 to benefit orphans in Vietnam are bearing fruit.

Dennis Koselke, a United Church of God member who used to live in Ellensburg, Wash., near Seattle, founded SEACAP (Southeast Asian Children's Assistance Project) after a visit--as a Vietnam War military veteran--in 1998. (See The Journal, Oct. 25, 1999.)

Mr. Koselke served in the U.S. Navy Seabees, a construction battalion, in what was then the Republic of South Vietnam during 1968-1972 (in the midst of the Vietnam War). Many years later he revisited Vietnam and perceived the need for an organization to help some of the thousands of orphans there.

"During that initial return visit, I saw a great need for helping orphaned, disabled and disadvantaged kids," Mr. Koselke told The Journal recently.

He subsequently made five trips to Vietnam. The last journey ended with his return to the United States in April 2001.

Mr. Koselke supported himself during his most-recent visit by teaching English in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon.

"I got to the point where I had to come back and work full time in the United States to replenish my dwindling resources," he said. "I also was quickly becoming a stranger to my grown son and daughter and growing grandsons."

SEACAP, Mr. Koselke's Vietnam project, is moving along "at a steady pace," he said. "We change projects slightly as needed: a little tweaking and adjusting here and there to meet the greatest needs and get the most out of each dollar of contributions."

Former Buddhist

SEACAP currently includes several projects:

  • The Sao Mai project, about an hour and a half northeast of Ho Chi Minh City in the countryside.

"I first visited this project more than two years ago and was very much impressed by it," Mr. Koselke said. "A former [Buddhist] monk--he decided that getting married and having a family was a more-balanced and happy life for him--and teacher, Mr. Chau, started this project for castaway kids" (children who are separated from their families or who have no families).

The castaways included children severely disabled, mentally or physically or both. They were "given up to the street life," Mr. Koselke said.

The average age of the children is about 15, with ages ranging from about 6 to late teens.

"He [Mr. Chau] always refers to them as 'my children' when he talks about them," Mr. Koselke said. "When I first met him, I was struck by his warm smile and bright, shining eyes alive with concern for the kids and his deep voice."

Mr. Koselke said the former monk teaches the children to be as self-reliant as possible.

"We provide them with supplemental nutritious food and other essentials each month," Mr. Koselke said. "They grow vegetables, farm animals and poultry for additional income.

"They also have a special-ed [special-education] teacher almost daily to provide schooling for the kids."

Providing instructors

  • Another project, which has gone on for more than two years, involves providing special-education teachers for a vocational school in the central-coast city of Quy Nhon.

A woman who established a vocational establishment nine years ago has helped hundreds of severely handicapped young people learn means of making a living and having a chance at a dignified life, Mr. Koselke said.

"They otherwise would be begging and literally crawling on the streets; many cannot walk," Mr. Koselke said.

More about this project is at SEACAP's Web site:

Babies with AIDS

  • The third project among the continuing ones involves providing caretakers for babies and other young children who were infected with HIV or AIDS through a parent.

"Several are orphans; some have just one sick parent," Mr. Koselke told The Journal. "They were in a public institution that was vastly understaffed. The kids were in great need of caregivers to hold them, love them and provide basic care--also to take them out to the park or to play and have a little fun."

A way to help

Mr. Koselke says about six diehard supporters of SEACAP keep the projects going.

"We all have our full-time jobs and all the demands of busy lives, but, with God's help and some kindhearted contributors, we keep on going and helping where we can.

"I hear over and over from people involved in this that it truly is better to give than to receive. We quietly give of our time and limited resources, and it seems like the oil and meal never run out for the sake of the little ones that we have been privileged to serve."

Contributions from U.S. citizens to SEACAP are tax-deductible.

For information on how to contribute, visit the SEACAP Web site at

Or write Mr. Koselke at or 503 N. Sampson St., Ellensburg, Wash. 98926, U.S.A.

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