Ashley Scribner ardently believes in the Jesuit tradition of service and has found a perfect place to put it into practice—half a world away.
Friends who live in Vietnam invited Scribner—an artist and teacher—to come to the country to share her skills and brighten the lives of area children. They are among a third generation to be handicapped through heredity from the effects of Agent Orange, the toxic defoliant used during the Vietnam War.
“Agent Orange destroys nerves and it’s passed on genetically,” says Scribner. “Children’s limbs are not developed. They have clubbed hands and feet. Some fingers are missing or webbed. Their mental capacity is diminished.”
Scribner loved the idea, packed her bags and spent two weeks in Danang last year. “We figured out ways the children could hold and use paint brushes and crayons,” she says. “We gave them supplies and helped them paint and draw. They loved it.”
Upon her return, she decided to continue helping by raising money for Helping Hands, a non-profit business her friends set up that gives 100 percent of donations to these children and their families. Scribner organized a show and sale of the children’s artwork in August in New York City, where she lives.
It was a success, but it wasn’t enough. Scribner, who received art and art education degrees in 2002 and a master’s degree in Montessori education in 2007, wants to go back and continue helping—and to learn more about the country and its residents.
“When I was first there, I was hesitant to say I was from the U.S. because I thought the people would hate Americans because of the war,” she says. “But they are so happy to see Westerners. Vietnam has suffered adversity over the years, but it is a magnificent country with lots of potential.”