Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Lives Touching Lives

I really am blessed to be able to connect lives to lives, hearts to hearts. Well that is how I see it as I feel that as we meet people we touch each others lives and hopefully hearts too. As I introduce children and families to sponsors they touch each others lives and hearts.

I was once told about this from an American Medicine Woman. She said that the Native Americans call it 'weaving the web', which meant that as we connect to each other we are weaving a delicate web. I feel this is true and in acknowledging that I feel so blessed to be a part of that process and yet at the same time feel a huge responsibility to take my part seriously, which I make efforts to do but sometimes feel I fall short in achieving that.

It is more than a full time job to connect people in the west with the little ones here and to do it well and responsibly is a huge thing. I am committed 100% to doing this and yet there just aren't enough hours in the day or money in the bank. It means I can only do the best I can and aim to do this better and learn to find ways to obtain more funds so that others can help me to do this work. Very recently several people have offered to help find sponsors and that is a true blessing as it is not always easy to connect lives with lives. If we want a sponsor for a young and pretty girl it's easy, if she is older or ugly it is harder. We help boys in dire situations occassionally to go to school and it is hard to get sponsors for them.

Then there are other challenges as I live in a country where we don't have electricity all the time and where many emails go astray more often than is convenient. I never know if people have received my latest updates or end of year reports on the child they are sponsoring.

Unfortunately education is not free here although Ho Chi Minh talked about the importance of free education for all in this nation, but it hasn't worked out that way. It's consequently a big challenge for families with very little income to give their children an education.

Each child that Children's Education Foundation has taken on needs a sponsor for them to receive an education. We agree on helping a child due to them meeting our criteria. Unfortunately there are many in dire situations that meet our criteria and we can't say yes to all. Right now we have some children in need of sponsors. Some of them have been without a sponsor for a year or two as they are either visually unattractive or their education is expensive. We have also just met 10 new children in the last few weeks in need of a sponsor. Some I personally am paying for as they need help right now and they don't have a sponsor yet and some we have said yes to if the parents find a way to borrow the money to keep them in school now and as soon as we have a sponsor we will take over.

Things work in a mysterious way. I have been thinking how hard it is to say no when a family is severely impoverished and sincerely want their child to have an education. I have trusted that if I pay now there will be someone who will take over shortly. In the last two days I have received 3 emails asking if I could send them a child to sponsor. I am also about to send out all the remaining children that we have today in need of a sponsor to the lovely ladies who offered to help find sponsors. That then leaves us free to meet the others we have heard about and be in a position to consider helping them.

It is actually each of you who sponsors a child that puts them through school,not CEF. I don't know if sponsors realize how they are the ones changing lives, the ones who make it possible for a child to have many more choices in their lives, many opportunities for a good income and a decent standard of living. We just coordinate to make it all happen, to make the connections, to be weavers of the web.

The challenges that impoverished families have to give their children an education is big. For many its just not feasible to do this when they have no income, or a miniscule one. They are struggling to figure out how to feed their children let alone educate them.

Many who care about their children's future give them up to an orphanage or pagoda where they know they will be fed and educated. This is hard ofr a family to do butit is an expression of care here when poverty means they can not feed thier children. We believe in doing what we can to keep children with their families so that this seperation and suffering doesn't have to take place. Sometimes it means we need to provide other support, such as food and accomodation for it to work for the family to stay together and for the children to be educated.

Others are suffering less but can not afford to educate their children and we step in and pay for that. Then there are those with limited funds and the boys are put into school first leaving the girls at home to help with domestic chores and farming or fishing. When we know of impoverished families who have girls out of school, or about to be removed from school, we step in and provide the means for them to go to school,or to continue their education.

Receiving outside help is the only way many children can be educated. There is often no family that is any better off than they are who they can ask for help from. If they have no collateral they can't borrow from the bank or any institutions. It is a hard situation for many families when they have a makeshift home and only the occassional job. Many of the parents and children can laugh and joke and yet they have a very challenging life. Children are amazing at coping. Unfortunately some we see have become hardened due to the severe hardships they have encountered, but it is rare. What has touched us is when uneducated parents who haven't work or enough to eat beg us to help their children, not to receive food, but receive an education because they don't want their child to be a garbage collector or clean up the fish guts at the market or do the back-breaking job of being a rice farmer.

Most of us born into the western world have had challenges to face whether it was our parents divorcing or being dyslexic in a world depending on the word, or having a disabled sibling, or being born black in a white world and having to live with having to prove oneself all the time. To be honest from my experience of the challenges I have had they seem tiny incomparison to what I see and hear. The strength, courage and determination that they have is an inspiration and certainly helps me to keep my challenges in persective.

I have been amazed to see how thrilled they are to be able to go to school or continue school. Some of them express this in letters they write to their sponsors and the words they say certainly have an impact. Some address their sponsors formally and some more intimately. Some can not express their gratitude enough and some are worried the sponsor will be disappointed if their grades aren't good enough and are embarassed that they didn't get excellent results. An advanced student will still say 'I will try harder so you are not disappointed with me, so that I don't abuse your trust'. I am amazed how much they try to please their sponsors. They see them as part of the extended family and feel a responsibility to them.

It's time to finish this post that has been done over one month. Today I will be completing some more biographies of the children and sending them off to those awaiting a child to sponsor.

With love and many thanks to all of you who support us, who sponsor a child or who help find sponsors as you are all making a difference in the world.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Fundraising in New York

August 2010 New York, USA

Until CEF has a fundraising team it's mainly up to me to do what I can to bring in funds and find sponsors. So feeling rested and enthused and knowing the necessity for money to help children in Vietnam to receive an education I ambitiously decided to organize some fundraising events over a fortnight.

New York summers are hot and humid and anyone who can escape to somewhere near the sea or somewhere cooler does. Some of those asked if they would like to attend were away and couldn't. But determination meant I would still forge ahead and just organize two small events.

Stephen, the USA manager-coordinator helped by inviting many friends as well as offering his beautiful spacious apartment which easily fitted everyone in. A meal was prepared and cooked with love for 14 people. Lynette a fellow Australian was able to help for some of the day which made it fun and an enjoyable experience. It was a small,but successful fundraiser for Chldren's Education Foundation.

Those who came were lovely and showed a serious interest and asked intelligent thoughtful questions, ate with gusto and enjoyed the evening. On this evening many who attended were lucky not to be in the war, but almost were due to their age, but some of their friends and family were involved. They had an interest in the results of the war and how it affected Vietnam, how its people and government now responded to Americans and the affects of Agent Orange.

Lynette gave a DVD to CEF to use to raise funds. This DVD is fascinating and would particularly be of interest to cyclists '16,000 Feet on A Friday' which is about biking the World's highest paved road 'Ticlio Pass' in Peru. It's scary just watching it as the shear drops are not small ones. Lynette's website is www.galfromdownunder.com

We had the new CEF calendar for 2011 available with the lovely shots Shanti took of the Phuc Le Education Project children, their homes and farmhouses. We still have some available.

Anne Parker gave a small but beautiful contemporary art quilt to CEF. This is still available if anyone is interested. A picture of it is included.

To purchase a 2011 Calendar, Anne's quilt or the '16,000 Feet on a Friday', please contact Stephen.

The next event was a wine, cheese and salad evening. Again a similar number of people attended who were mainly Stephen Jackel's friends but also some of those who have become my friends over the years in New York and all showed a very sincere interest. Many on this evening were in education and wanted to know about many aspects of Vietnamese education.

Some of those who came showed an interest to continue to help CEF in some way which was very touching and hugely appreciated. We now have three people committed to work on fundraising together in New York and to help find sponsors for the many children we are asked to help to receive an education. If anyone else is intersted in participating please do get in touch with Stephen or myself.

Stephen was most kind and generous in supporting our work and contributing the use of his apartment and sharing his friends to support children receive an education in Vietnam which was hugely appreciated as without his kindness and support these events would not have taken place even with my determination and enthusiasm to help the children!

Linda or Stephen can be contacted at cef.vn.usa@gmail.com