Sunday, August 2, 2020

Wood dowry ~ Guest blog by CEF's Ms Thuy Dinh

Some of the students CEF's Thuy Dinh is responsible for are from an ethnic community in a mountainous region of Phuoc Son not far from the Laos border. They have customs that we know nothing of unless they share them with us and as they do we are constantly learning from them which we love. Thuy shares this interesting story.

I am really into exploring new cultural and historical stories of the areas I visit. This is my third year working for CEF and I am responsible for working with mainly Gie Trieng ethnic minority girls in our scholarship program in mountainous areas of Phuoc Son district. I used to notice the woodpiles stacked neatly along walls of the local people’s stilt houses but I was never curious about that. Other CEF staff and I thought simply these bundles of wood were for their daily cooking, but it turned they were not for that use.
We did a survey trip in Phuoc Son district two weeks ago and I accidentally learned about the role of firewood and it’s connection to Gie Trieng marriage customs. It is really interesting to hear that on their wedding day, they may lack money or gold, but wood is a must for the brides. A local person shared that wood was the dowry, and a treasured symbol of love. In addition, he said: “It’s very cold living in the forest. We need the heat from a fire to survive. Therefore, wood is very important to us.”
Local women used to cut down the beech trees before there was the regulation of protecting the forest was established. While the wood is tough, it has a straight grain so it is not only easy to chop, but the wood also burns for a long time. When Gie Trieng women enter the age of marriage, it is time for them to take the wood from the forest. It takes them a long time and much effort. Gie Trieng women start to chop down the trees at the age of 15. Each must have 400 to 500 bundles of firewood to show off their skill and determination. The more firewood she has, the healthier and more hardworking she is considered.
Collecting the wood can take months or years. Men can tell how strong, industrious, and skilful the women are by observing how big the stacks are and how even the wood is chopped. They will make their marital decisions based on that. The presented wood is also the symbol of piety as the brides don’t only present it to the groom but also to her family-in-law on their wedding day. It is considered a valuable dowry that the groom’s family only uses on special occasions.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

A CEF high school graduate and her plans ~ Guest blog by CEF's Ms Vy

Nga with her mother and siblings

CEF's Vy talks about one of our CEF high school graduates who has done well and her future plans:

Nga just completed high school with an average of 8.1/10 and is about to take the high school graduation exam at the beginning of August. Next her wish is to take a short course in hospitality taught by an NGO in Hoi An, where she’s provided with a comprehensive no-cost 18 month training program, extensive English language training and practical hands-on experience in hospitality service. Also, she’s provided with daily living costs, accommodation and other benefits during this course. She’s looking forward to attending the interviews to see whether she’s able to obtain a place on this course. She thinks that it’s a wise decision because it may help reduce the burden for her mother, who is the sole provider in her family to look after four children of school age, one of whom has cerebral palsy.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Reflections on working with ethnic students in Phuoc Son ~ Guest blog by CEF's Thuy Dinh

Working with ethnic minority girls to help them with their education is really challenging for us. At first, communication is always difficult because they have their own language and have to learn Vietnamese at school when they are young children but this does not mean they can understand all of the Vietnamese vocabulary, so we have to use basic words to talk with them and exchange information. Sadly in some cases we are unable to help them because we cannot communicate with them sufficiently or because they are hesitant to talk with us.

Secondly, helping them with careers advice is also another challenge because there are not many job opportunities for them after high school graduation to match their abilities. To be honest, I have become more patient since I started working with them. I learned not to always expect too much from them or for them to have good school results. Over the two years that I have been working on this project, I can see the progress they have made, although it’s sometimes slow. I smile to myself as it makes me happy to see this progress.

Previously, the majority of the young ethnic generation dropped out of school before completing high school due to poverty, pregnancy, or child marriage, then did farming like their parents. This kept the poverty cycle going, but now it is gradually changing. So far this year, most CEF scholarship students want to take a vocational training course to be a tailor, a hairdresser, a baker, a bartender, a waitress or work in a factory to earn money and support their family. I think at least they have started to change their mind about what is possible and dream of a brighter future.

(Staff photos)

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Hoi An and some of our CEF students

Hoi An is an old trading town, and once the largest port in South East Asia, but that was a long time ago. It has been a popular tourist town for the last twenty years. Our NGO is based on the outskirts and some of our CEF students reside on the outskirts too.

It looks like an affluent town with it's lovely homes, it's tempting shops and restaurants, but there still is a lot of poverty here.

I share here a few summaries of situations of a few of the local children. Tien's parents and grandparents have all died. Her sister who is a young mother with a very low income is responsible for her. She can just about feed Tien, but needs help with that and needs us to cover Tien's education costs. 

One family we help has three young children who mum is trying to support on her own as dad died fairly recently. Mum is creative and finds ways to earn small amounts, but with reduced domestic tourism her income is way down. CEF helps with education and food costs.

Another sweet child in our sponsorship program is an orphan cared for by her grandparents and her extended family. One of her aunts who is dying from cancer is under granny and grandad's care too. The main person earning is granddad who is a fisherman. He says that the area has been overfished and they have to go further out to see to find fish. So his income from fishing is down.

Linh is a young girl living with granny. Dad has vanished and doesn't care and mum has died. Granny has no income except help she receives from a son depending on how much he earns. Another is an orphan who is cared for by granny and aunty. Neither have an income except from any family who can contribute. Both these girls have sponsorships. 

One student's brother was a gambler and gambled so much mum had to sell the family home. Fortunately they had a little left, and could get a loan to buy a tiny piece of land and build a small home in an abjacent district, but now they have no friends there, a large debt which they can't pay off, and it takes her 45 minutes to get to school now.  As she has lessons at night after school has finished she has to stay in town and eat at a friends home as her's is too far to come and go from in the day.

Another girl in the sponsorship program has parents but mum is dying of cancer and so the only income is from rice they sell and dad giving tourists rides on their buffalo, but with no tourists there is not income besides from the rice.

Their situations sound depressing and they are very challening ones. But they smile effortlessly when we see them, they are able to laugh and joke besides sharing their challenges. It rarely is depressing as they all have hope and they all have help and care from CEF to keep their daughters and granddaughters in school.   

Sunday, June 28, 2020

A past CEF sponsorship student gets married ~ Guest blog by CEF's staff Ngoc Do

Ngoc Do who was responsible for Van over two of the six years she was in CEF's sponsorship program shares this good news.

Van, one of CEF’s past students sent me a sweet message to inform us about her wedding day. 

‘On June 26, I am getting married. I won’t do a big celebration so I am sorry that I cannot invite you, Ms. Linda and CEF staff to attend my wedding party. I am writing to you to let you know about this great news.

On this occasion, I would sincerely send my big thanks to Ms. Linda, my sponsor, Mrs. Morwenna and CEF staff for helping and caring for me over my most difficult years. I hope Ms Linda will stay healthy and happy to help many more disadvantaged children.’

She was one of my favorite children because she tried very hard to stay positive and overcome many obstacles in her life. Congratulations Van! I wish her all the best.

Thank you letter ~ Guest blog by CEF's staff member Kim Chi

Van Anh has been in our education sponsorship program for nine years (photo below of her when we started sponsoring her).

CEF staff member Kim Chi shares a thank you letter about the her final step at university for Van Anh:
One of our university students has done her final dissertation to graduate from university. In the final thank you letter which she wrote to her sponsor, she would like to share her feelings from that day which was a very important and special day for her.

“Last Monday, I finished the final exams of term two and ended my four-year university course with a final dissertation. I had to present the final dissertation in front of many lecturers of my faculty. One day before, I had to prepare my presentation on PowerPoint, prepare my uniform, and drink and fruit for the lecturers. I wore Ao Dai which is our traditional custom when presenting a dissertation.

Although I did prepare it very well, I was nervous and couldn’t talk fluently. When I finished my presentation, the lecturers questioned and I answered most of their questions very well and naturally, and that made me became more confident. I was thrilled because the lecturers assessed my presentation at a high level. They also made some comments and suggestions which helped me to recognize my mistakes and improve the next time. It was a good result for my effort and I was very pleased about my presentation. I was even more delighted when I got a score of 9.4/10 for my dissertation.

It was the best memory of my student time. Doing the final dissertation was not only a novel experience but also a remarkable moment during my time at university. I gained a lot of experiences and made some good relationships which are related to my work of the future.”

Friday, June 26, 2020

Today one of our past CEF students is getting married

Van's story was tragic, with dad poisoning her mother, then himself. Leaving her and her brother orphaned, her grandparents then brought up the children, but as they were elderly they had no income. It certainly wasn't a happy household as it was very stained as her grandparents were too poor and too old to take on this responsility.  
We took Van into the sponsorship program and helped her have a high school education and then helped her study to become an art teacher. After four years of working she met the man she wants to marry and today they were married.

She wrote to us about this special day (translated by CEF's Ngoc Do):‘On June 26, I am getting married. I won’t do a big celebration so I am sorry that I cannot invite you, Ms. Linda and CEF staff to attend my wedding party. I am writing to you to let you know about this great news.
On this occasion, I sincerely send my big thanks to Ms. Linda, my sponsor, Mrs. Morwenna and CEF staff for helping and caring for me over the most difficult time in my life. I hope Ms Linda will stay healthy and happy to help many more disadvantaged children.’

Morwenna her sponsor helped change her life and enabled her become an educated and employable young woman. She met Morwenna her sponsor, and Morwenna's two children, two years after graduation. They were thrilled to be able to meet each other at last. 

We wish Van a happy life as she certainly deserves it after all the challenges she has had to face.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Home visits in Dai Loc ~ Blog guest ~ Graeme Burn ~ CEF's Australia Manager

It was getting hot even at 5-15am when I left the CEF office in Hoi An to join two of our staff, Thuy and Ngoc to travel to Dai Loc district to visit students and their families. We reached the first house while the sun was quite low and the view from the family’s garden across the rice fields to the hills in the distance was still fresh and clear.

We visited eight families that day. It was lovely to see some children I hadn’t met for a year or two and to learn how they were getting on and what their plans for the future were. We spent time with one family whose two high school girls are quite new in CEF’s program.

Thuy and Ngoc interviewed the two young women and talked to their mother about how things were going for them all during COVID 19. We sat in their father’s tailor’s shop and he worked at his bench ironing and cutting cloth the whole time we were there. We learned that business was slow because not many customers had the money to have clothes made but they were managing with father’s income and a monthly gift from donors who had given to CEF’s COVID19 support fund.

While Thuy helped Tuyet Mai with her university application, mum told us how her husband had stopped working in a garment factory to set up his tailoring business in the front of their home. He had been travelling 1 1/2 hours to the factory on his three-wheeled motorbike, renting a room near work, staying the week there and returning for a day or two at the weekend. Disabled from birth he found the travel and factory work exhausting. it was special to see him together with his wife and daughters. His broad smile told me that he was very happy no longer having to ride so far for work and being able to spend so much more time with his family.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Home visits to our families in and around Hoi An

Due to Covid19 all of CEF's home visits had to be delayed until a time when it was safe and permitted.

This page is just photos from home visits locally, of families and scenery and a kitchen. We caught up with our children and families and discussed the education of the child who is in the sponsorship program.

We found everyone well and a few only in a challenging financial position because they are unemployed or have no customers to take up the services they offer, and that has come about due to Covid19. 

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Post Covid19

We have been most fortunate here in Vietnam as the government has dealt very responsbily with the recent outbreak of the virus Covid19. There weren't many cases and there were no deaths. They worked very hard to ensure this at a great cost to the countryas they made their people the priority.

We have been blessed to have received some donations which have helped us to help our students and their families during this challenging time of very little or no work. For many now things are getting better, as some factories have reopened due to receiving orders. Some hotes, restaurants and cafes catering to the domestic tourists are open and have mainly weekend business when the tourists arrrive for the weekend.

For many their lives have changed little as they support themselves by farming and by selling their vegetables at the market.  Some of the farming families now are having to support a son or a daughter who is now unemployed though. In most of the areas CEF works there is no tourism, but family members might work in tourism away from their homes.

As our base is in Hoi An, a tourist town, we can see that Covid19 has greatly affected the local community. Many businesses have permanently shut down and a few can afford to stay shut and wait until international tourism resumes. But the town is a little like a ghost town on weekdays when there are no domestic tourists.   

We have all been warned there may be a second wave and we hope this doesn't happen.  Vietnam is working to ensure it doesn't. They were going to open the borders to more people next week, but have announced they have changed their minds due to new cases in China, one of our neighbors.

We thank everyone who has donated to help families during this challenging time and those who have received help are very grateful.

Photos are of a few of our CEF students with Covid19 support funds they have received.