I've had lots of other Vietnam families ask for advice about gift-giving in general and at Go Vap Orphanage. So I'm going to write a series of posts about the gifts we gave while in-country. Hope this helps.
The most important gifts, in my opinion, were for the nannies who cared for our son the first 10 months of his life. The suggestion from our agency and other families was to put together a small gift bag with a few things in it. I took the advice of another LSS family and bought mini photo albums (on clearance at Target!) and put a few photos of Sam in them.
It also was important for me to include a personal part of me in this gift, so I made each nanny a felt flower pin. I was going to include a note explaining that they are violets, the state flower of Illinois, but I never got around to doing the note. Hand-stitching these is one way I stayed busy and sane while waiting for I-600 approval! I also hand-painted the gift bags, using plain white ones from Michael's (using a 40% off coupon--always!). I stamped them with flowers and polka dots. (For more detail about the hand-crafted part of these gifts, see this post on my craft blog, Spiritual Knitter.)
(As you can see, Ed worked hard on the assembly of these gift bags at our hotel in Ho Chi Minh City!) Since it was important that all gifts be Made in America, or at least not Made in China or Vietnam, I bought Burt's Bees travel-size lotions and shampoos (through ebay), a Chicago Cubs pen (also through ebay) and finally some squares of Ghiradelli chocolate (all dark--less likely to melt).
Because of my thrifty shopping, I was able to put together these bags for about $5 each. The most important thing is to have enough of them for all the nannies in both the infant and toddler rooms, since Sam had been in both of them. I was originally told there were 20, then later 23, nannies. I had exactly that. But when I arrived at Go Vap, they told me to distribute them and I accidentally handed one to a nurse rather than a nanny. Oops. The nurses are in white; the nannies in blue.
Next: Gifts for the orphanage director and other orphanage officials.