Thursday, October 20, 2016

About Viet Nam's Women's Day ~ Guest blog by CEF's Ms Kim Chi

In Vietnam, we celebrate woman’s day twice a year. We observe National Women’s Day on 20th October and again International Women’s Day on 8th of March.  And today we greatly appreciate CEF gave us time to have coffee to celebrate the day.

I am Vietnamese and I am very proud of the Vietnamese Women who sacrificed themselves for Viet Nam revolution as well as those who established gender equality to help Vietnamese women have the right to vote, join in the Vietnamese government and help bring about more respect from males.

Thanks to them, today we enjoy freedom and equal rights. We receive flowers and gifts from our lovers, husbands and male friends on this day as well as encourage and empower each other.

I am also very excited as I can go home early today to do something special for my mom and show my unbounding gratitude to her.

Vietnam Women's Day

Today is Women's Day in Vietnam. From the Vietnamese females perspective, the men in their lives hopefully will be expressing their love and respect for them. It could be the boyfriend or the husband expressing his love to the important woman or women in his life. But it could also be business partners / or businesses expressing their respect and appreciation to the women in their lives. Sweet or kind words, words of appreciation, and sometimes little gifts or flowers may be given.

Also females too like to express their love and care for the special women in their lives; their mothers, siblings, work friends and good long term friends.

Originally it had a similar purpose, but more of a political connection. On this day in 1930 some women who were against imperialism created a group, which is now called The Vietnam Women's Union. It is not clear what they originally did, but these days this wonderful organization, or union, cares for and does a lot to support women to have equal rights, to be respected and to receive the support and help they need. This organization works throughout Viet Nam. The Communist Party of Vietnam decided that this day, was an important day, and that it was appropriate that each year  this should be the day to officially honour women.

It is also a day to remember the valuable role of women in Vietnamese society. We at CEF are very lucky to have a strong team of women who add value to our work, who care about the children, the sponsors and donors and want the best for all our children. The staff are like mothers too, they want the children to know they are cared for, that we all want the best for them, to guide them and support them into adulthood, but not to give them things on a platter or spoil them in the process.

Each of the staff are intelligent, strong and caring women and we are blessed to have each of them as an important, essential, valuable member of the CEF team.

Friday, October 14, 2016

What a wonderful time together ~ Guest blog by a CEF sponsor

Photos from the day (photos by the sponsor, Ms Kerry)

How do you rate a memorable experience, something that would normally be totally beyond your reach? Imagine a child who hasn’t seen much of life beyond her own village being offered the opportunity to attend a rare event, a visit to a city, and a chance to meet her sponsor again. What should the child expect? It could be scary!  But it may also be exciting, and worth the risk!  How amazing would it be if the experience was life changing!

That is what I wanted to achieve for Tam and Ngoc, the girls we sponsor through CEF, on their visit with me in Hoi An. To give them an experience they would never forget. Hoi An, only an hour away from where they live, was the best location to begin this type of engagement with the girls. Through the wonderful guidance of Linda Burn and the CEF team, we were able to set this up, so that with a CEF employee as our interpreter and guide, we were able to co-ordinate a day and a plan of activities.

The girls were excited, I could tell within minutes of seeing them again. Nervous, but excited. The eldest, Tam, was keen to share a letter and a drawing she had done for Andrew and I. It nearly broke my heart. It was an expression of gratitude and a wish for our family’s well being. Ngoc was reserved but you could see she was paying attention to everything we were saying. What a great start.

The day was designed to be casual and relaxed. Vy, our CEF guide had planned out a series of activities and the girls and I followed her call. Tam and Ngoc soon figured out I knew as little as they did about Hoi An, so that was our instant bond, plus our need to chase the shade away from direct sun, which they don't like as it darkens their skin. To think they want skin like mine. Heaven forbid, I told them!

We visited Hoi An’s historic sites which showed them first hand some of the history of the city; we saw artists perform music from ancient times; checked out different arts and crafts made in the region; ate some delicious local cuisine and laughed a lot.  All the while the girls practising English and me Vietnamese, which I have to admit was worse than their English.

I loved every minute. The chance to experience life through a young person’s eyes is so personal and so rewarding. I hope they got as much out of it as I did. I truly hope I can do this again during the course of their academic careers. I think it adds another unique dimension to the sponsorship program. It increases the level of personalisation to what you contribute and goes beyond just writing a cheque. It makes you better appreciate the challenges facing girls in Vietnam. And lastly, where you set out thinking the gift was to them, it becomes your life changing event as well.


When most Australians think about Vietnam, they think about the war we became embroiled in over 50 years ago. I’m no different being married to an Australian soldier. I know only too well the toll on human life and the sacrifices that were made for little gain. Pushing politics aside, I see Vietnam in its new light. Its history indelibly linked with ours, I fell in love very quickly with this country and its people as they struggle to rise above their past.

It started with a promise three years ago, that I would come back and see the girls we sponsor through the CEF program. Tam and Ngoc made a major impression on both Andrew and I and we both agreed after visiting their home last time, and meeting their widowed mother and brother, that we wanted to give these two girls the best we could through the program.

A CEF student shares about her first two weeks of university ~ Guest blog by CEF's Ms Thuy

This is from a new CEF university student who is in her first year at Hue Medical and Pharmaceutical University about her first two weeks in Hue where she studies.

‘‘I already have been in Hue two weeks and started to go to university last week. In my first days in Hue, I felt very sad and missed home so much. Luckily, I stayed with my older sister in a rented room. She is a good sister as well as a good student. She often talks to me and gives me much good advice. We take turns to cook. We often call home to ask after our father and younger brother. Thanks to that, I now feel better and more familiar with student life here in Hue. Fortunately my university is quite close to my place as I go to school on my sister’s bicycle. There is a sophomore, who studies in my department at university, and lives next to my room. He is very kind and lent me his old documents and books from last year.

On the first day of university I was quite surprised to find it wasn’t like I imagined, as the university syllabus is so different from the school one. The lecturers teach very fast and seem not to care much about their students. Therefore, I have to spend much more time reading and going over the lessons at home. When I have difficult lessons, I can’t ask for help or get explanations from the teachers like I did when I was in high school, so I do a lot of reading and studying until I get it.

Now, I am already acquainted with the syllabus. I have made friends with many new students and I feel more excited to go to my lessons now. Besides concentrating on my studies, I also want to be an involved student joining in on many activities, such as attending the: ‘Welcome freshman to university’ event, and by donating blood. I am also planning to find a part time job to contribute to my living costs here as well as to have life experience. Of course, the most importance thing is my studies and I promise that I will try my best to get good school results.”

Monday, October 10, 2016

About a recent CEF graduate ~ Guest blog by CEF's Ms Ngoc

As I have now been working for three years with many of the CEF children I have been observing changes in each child in the time I have been working with them. I have been left with a good impression of one of CEF’s high school graduates, Tra My, who received our help for around 5 years.

She lives with her disabled mother who almost earns nothing every day. They mainly live on support from the government and donations from a kind local lady.

Tra My dreamt of being a kindergarten teacher and she wanted to pursue that dream. However, when she got more mature, she understood her family situation and knew her mother cannot manage without her and could not contribute anything to support her while studying to be a kindergarten teacher.

Therefore, Tra My was struggling with this conflict of following her dream or helping her mother and working. Finally she chose her mother.

She knew that if she studied as a kindergarten teacher, her future would be brighter. However, during the period of study, no one would be able to look after her mother. Therefore, she made a decision to work for a shoe factory near her home. She also found out that at the moment the number of unemployed kindergarten teachers is really high. The risk of unemployment after her course was also a reason which made her think thoroughly about this.

She told me that in the past she never imagined she would go to high school and get the opportunity to graduate due to her challenging situation. Thanks to CEF and her sponsor, she had a chance to go through high school and graduate and now she can find a job easily after graduating from high school. She really appreciated the help she had and she is satisfied with her new job and her life with her mother at the moment. I hope she will have a comfortable and joyful life with her family.

CEF Sponsor and sponsored children meet up in Hoi An ~ Guest blog by CEF's Ms Vy

This is the first time I joined a meeting between CEF children and their sponsor and it left me with many feelings and impressions.

Sponsor with the two girls (sponsor's photo)

'T' and 'N' are children belonging to our education sponsorship program and they were lucky to have the opportunity to meet their sponsor. Both of them had been so curious that they got up very early in on the morning of the meeting. I picked them up at their house and took them to Hoi An to meet Kerry. All of them felt very happy and gave each other warm hugs. Kerry prepared some lovely gifts for 'T' and 'N' and their younger brother.

From Kerry’s hotel, we started with a short walk into Hoi An old quarter. As both 'T' and 'N'
had never been to Hoi An old town before, they looked around at their new surroundings and were excited to hear about the history of Tan Ky ancient house, the most famous ancient house in Hoi An, and when watching a traditional music performance. All the activities with Kerry gave 'T' and 'N' many new experiences.

The girls at Tan Ky House (sponsor photo)

Music and dance performance in Hoi An (Staff photo)

The day was a great time for Kerry and her sponsor children. They were all closer which helped Kerry understand 'T' and 'N' more and vice-versa. Kerry told them many things about her beloved family as well as encouraging them to study hard. Kerry was very happy that 'T' and 'N' were able to communicate a little with her in simple English sentences. Kerry believed that she could have a much closer and better relationship with 'T' and 'N' if she spent time with them and would be able to consider her as one of their caring family’s members.

I, too think that communicating directly, face to face is the best way to understand someone.

Friday, October 7, 2016

'Days for Girls' gift to CEF ~ Guest blog by CEF's Ms Thuy

Maybe some of you have already watched the news about the ‘Fake sanitary pads in Vietnam’ on television or seen articles in the newspapers. These fake pads are very dangerous and harmful to women’s health and why they sell successfully is because they are extremely cheap. Not all people know about this basic knowledge. These fake and bad goods normally are delivered and sold in the remote rural areas, mountainous areas where people are poor, aren’t educated much and prefer to save money and therefore buy cheap pads. Educating people is the best solution, but will they use the good ones if they don’t have enough money or will the retailers only sell the cheap ones? What will be best for them in the short term?

On Thursday, CEF was so lucky to welcome Ms. Sarah and her daughter, from ‘Days for Girls’ organization. On this visit, these lovely ladies brought 62 handmade sanitary towel kits for our minority / ethnic high school girls in the mountainous areas of Quang Nam. They not only taught us how to use them and care for them, but also explained everything in detail and answered all our related questions.

We are very excited and looking forward to transferring this useful information as well as bringing these kits to our students in our next trip to them.

Thank you very much to Sarah and her daughter and ‘Days for Girls’ for this generous and very useful gift and knowledge.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

A special and unusual birthday ~ Guest blog by CEF's Ms Kim Chi

This was my most memorable birthday since I was born.

Kim Chi on a bamboo bridge in Thai Binh near one of the students homes

 I have been working for CEF for over 3 years. I was travelling with Linda from Ha Noi to Thai Binh province where we were to do home visits and payments in a community we work with there. We left Ha Noi in the very earlier morning on my birthday and as we traveled I was remembering my last birthday with candles, cake, and flowers with my lovely little girl and husband. It was a strange feeling finding myself missing my little daughter, and missing my family, but I was not sad or lonely. I was full of happiness as it was a long time since I had been to this community, which is a peaceful community in the north east of Vietnam.

I have been working for CEF for over 3 years. I was travelling with Linda from Ha Noi to Thai Binh province where we were to do home visits and payments in a community we work with there. We left Ha Noi in the very earlier morning on my birthday and as we traveled I was remembering my last birthday with candles, cake, and flowers with my lovely little girl and husband. It was a strange feeling finding myself missing my little daughter, and missing my family, but I was not sad or lonely. I was full of happiness as it was a long time since I had been to this community, which is a peaceful community in the north east of Vietnam.

Visiting and helping disadvantaged children on the day I was due to be 26 years old made it a meaningful day as I felt that I was predestined to do charity work, and I find I love my work more and more.

It’s always interesting to go there, but it is not easy to work in this area so far from Quang Nam. I find it a little hard because of their differences, different accent, religion and customs, and thinking. But I also find the differences interesting as well.  I feel so sorry for the challenging situations many have there. Some of their challenges are due to their failed crops or diseased animals, and they are down to earth people working hard, but not able to make ends meet. But some are not, and I realize that they are unlikely to change their impractical thinking which causes their poverty and increases their poverty further as it is very common in their community. For example many in this community believe they should have a large house with a room for each child and to do that they borrow a large sum of money, build a huge house, end up with a huge debt and huge stress, and then they can’t manage to make ends meet on a daily basis and pay for their children’s education.  This thinking sadly causes great stress and poverty.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

A new school year has just started ~ Guest blog by CEF's Ms Thuy

A new school year just started on Monday. Students have had to go to school for practicing their school opening ceremony since last Saturday which was also our last home visit day to see the CEF children in Hoi An.

Start of school year (photographer unknown)

All of our students feel excited about going back to school because they can meet their friends and teachers after nearly 3 months of summer holidays. It’s so nice to know all of them are already well prepared for their new academic year. They all look so nice in their school uniforms. Most of them have at least one new white shirt and blue trousers – the school uniform in primary and secondary school in Vietnam. Some have to have two pairs because last years’ no longer fit as they grow up so fast; especially the secondary school girls.  High school girls often have two or three pairs of white ‘ao dai’ (long dress with side splits to the waist and long loose trousers underneath) for the 3 years at high school.

One of our CEF students in her uniform

Some of our students can save a little of the money we give them thanks to their well-deserved school awards and gifts for being ‘Good’ student last year; such as notebooks, uniform fabrics and table lamps.

We wish all our students a happy and successful school year.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

CEF is pleased and proud of him for completing his college studies

Fortunately he won't read this as it would embarrass him....

I remember him as a shy and timid little boy shortly after he lost his remaining parent. At the time I visited him, he and his two sisters were in the family home; a tiny run down house that was urgently in need of upkeep and cleaning. He looks the same now as he did then but now he is obviously a lot taller.

His sisters decided to drop out of school and work. Soon after they married into the local farming community and have their own families. He was taken in by his uncle and his family. They have loved and cared for him as if he was their own.

He came to CEF this week to complete with us as he has finished his college lectures in engineering. We wondered if he ever would get through school, so we are proud of him for hanging in there and getting through both high school and college. He just has to work on one assignment now and then he gets his qualification!