Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Girls

Sometimes I work for a short concentrated period doing non-CEF work to enable me to concentrate on CEF work most of the time. What I do is run tours and we all eat our way through beautiful Vietnam. Last week I took a sweet, lovely group of sixteen people on a gourmet culinary tour. We ate, travelled, studied cooking and had adventures......

This was a Gourmet Safari tour with really lovely girls-women(and one man). In honor of this group of lovely people I decided as the charity has some children waiting for a sponsor, that I would use the lovely surprise of some funds they gave me at the end, to sponsor one of the girls in need sponsorship. I also decided that I would continue to sponsor this girl from my salary from tours or with any surprise funds until her education was complete.

The sponsorship is in the name of THE GIRLS sorry I know there was a lovely man too)as I was very touched about their sweetness and thoughtfulness. It was like travelling with lots or sisters (and one brother). They were sweet, gentle, intelligent, kind, generous people. Of course we had some who loved shopping as there are great shopping opportunities, but they all had a great passion for Vietnamese food, for a deep understanding of Vietnam and Vietnamese people, for exploration and adventure.

So THE GIRLS FUND will provide an ongoing sponsorship and perhaps in the future another and another. So for now we have one less girl in need of a sponsor and she has a guaranteed education!

Next I will do a blog on the girl THE GIRLS FUND supports....

Sunday, March 13, 2011

When circumstances are against them what is the solution ?

From the left: Van, Linh, Diem and Hang

This morning we met with several of the children we have organized educational sponsorships for. All these girls have challenging situations with either one ill parent left or no parents at all.

We also met Van, a new girl who was referred to us by a nun who has asked us to help many children who have lost their parents or have a seriously ill parent. We are left wondering if we should help her. Based on her situation we want to, but based on her school results we are not sure and I know that sounds harsh.

Her parents committed suicide when she was six years old and even though that was about six years ago she is still traumatized by the experience, understandably. She lives with her elderly grandparents with a sister and brother. The grandparents are too old to work, but do grow enough food for the family. They can't afford to continue educating the children as they haven't an income.

The fact is she is an average student. She hasn't had any extra tuition for some time now as her grandparents can't afford it and this will put her further behind. Unfortunately only part of the curriculum is taught in school hours and the remainder is learnt through taking extra tuition. With giving extra tuition and educational support perhaps her results will go up. We don't normally take a child on when their results already are so average. We haven't got an answer to this situation. We are hesitant to help as we took a few children on in a similar situations in the past and each of them is struggling to get through school. We couldn't say no to them before as each had such a sad situation and this is yet another girl in a similar sad situation.

Linh looked well, but tired. Linh's mother has brain cancer and for some time now her behaviour has been quite wild. We have helped several children whose mothers had brain cancer but they were all peaceful, quiet and ill mothers. Linh's mother is active, strong, wild and aggressive.

Linh can't get much sleep at night as her mother gets up and throws things around and even beats up her own mother. No one in the house has a restful nights sleep ever. As it is, Linh is an average student and we took her and her education on due to her challenging situation. Her uncle and grandfather are struggling to earn enough to look after seven people and three of them are on ongoing medications.

Her results have gone down yet again and when we asked why her answer was matter of fact and logical. She is very tired from lack of sleep. She misses lessons sometimes as it is not unusual to have to clear up the mess her mother has created in the night and then she ends up getting to school late.

Two terms ago her results had gone down a little but this term they have gone down more. Last term we asked her to work harder and she had promised to do so and she says she has.

As her results are going down and her home situation is worsening what is the right thing to do? Do we stop paying and they remove her from school and she just stays at home and helps out or would she be sent out to work even though she is just a young teenager.

These are the questions we were left with after seeing Linh this morning. To be honest we don't know the answer but for now we have added some more private tuition for her in the hope she can bring the standard of one more subject up. We have decided to wait and see what happens this term and our goal for her has lowered. Instead of seeing her finish another five and a half years of school we hope we can get her through two and a half more years and then organize some vocational training for her.

Another girl whose parents drowned is in her final year of school. Last term her results were down a little and she promised to work harder. But the last results were worse and she says she doesn't understand why as she worked harder. She wishes to be a literature teacher. Diem explained that the grades needed to enter college are low as they want people to go to college and if the entrance level is too high not many people can enter. Even though her grades have fallen she believes she still can enter teacher training college to be a literature teacher.

Diem lives with her brother and sister and grandparents. They are too old to work and if she doesn't collect wood for the cooking fires at home and to sell at the market then they haven't enough money to buy food. No one asks her to do this, it's her choice as their situation is "bad" as she says. She has been left to carry the burden of care of her elderly grandparents, and care for her younger brother and much younger sister. It's a huge burden for a young woman. So some of her study times goes on collecting wood.

In the hope she can get her results up we have replaced the money she would earn selling the wood. She certainly feels burdened but wants so much to complete school and train as a teacher. We hope this extra support will help get her through the last term with good enough results for teacher training college.

Hang has lost both her parents and lives in a room with three other girls from her home area in the mountains. Her results are down too although she tried hard last term. She feels she can get them up enough enough to get into college to be able to study to be a literature teacher in Tam Ky where she is at school now. Her practice tests for this new term are showing an improvement already. As this is her last year we hope she can get them up and get into college to do her desired course.

These are some of the children we took on due to their sad situations, but are children with so much going against them. This is why we really don't know whether to help Van. It's hard to balance being objective and practical and staying human and caring. Just in central Vietnam there are hundreds of children in dire situations and we unfortunately can't help them all and it's hard sometimes to decide which of those in dire situations we do help even though we do have a list of criteria.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Go Philanthropic has organized a sponsor for two girls

Today we managed to squeeze in a visit for Lydia, the founding director of Go Philanthropic, for her to meet Thanh who happened to live near where she was staying. It was a brief visit as Lydia and the family were about to leave Hoi An. I waited with Thanh for her and could see she was both nervous and excited about meeting Lydia.

I was excited too as Lydia had just arranged a sponsor for Thanh and for Hang (who lived too far away for Lydia to meet this morning). It was exciting as I now knew they would be able to complete their education and pursue further education or training. They will have futures with more possibilities now.

Thanh's family are very sweet, yet very traditional. They are very supportive of the males in the family being educated, but don't believe a full education is needed by females. They wanted Thanh to leave school against her wishes when she was 16 to go work in a factory.

Hang's parents have died and she has no support so to now have some support is wonderful for her and will enable her to complete school and receive further education or training.

I was connected to Go Philanthropic by two of our very supportive CEF - Vietnam sponsors and now due to this introduction two girls have sponsors. This reminds me of what an American Medicine Woman once told me about how we all weave a web as we go through life and that shows we are interconnnected.

When Lydia met Thanh she had questions but she also introduced herself and talked about being a mother of three as well as being the founding director of Go Philanthropic. I was inspired by what she said. It was wonderful to hear others sharing the same wish just with different words. She expressed how her organization tried to connect those who needed help with those interested in helping. She organizes unique travel experiences allowing people to be involved in worthwhile projects around the world. She believed education and a love of it was important and how Go Philanthropic supports those who loved education and were in need of educational support.

She told us about Thanh's new sponsor who had been blessed to have a mother who encouraged her to pursue her dreams. She was able to fulfill her dreams successfully and now has started the journey of giving back. Thanh and Hang are part of her new journey in giving back and helping others persue their dreams.

Please read about Go Philanthropic:
On their site:
“Do not wait for leaders. Do it alone, person to person.”
Quote by Mother Teresa

From my time with Lydia, I would say she lives this herself.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Two little boys in need of sponsors

We rarely take boys on as our work is to help girls have an education so that they will have a better future with more choices.

But we do take on up to 10% boys who are in dire situations. Two such boys are on this blog. Hoa the little boy in the first picture was due to start school last August, but because he didn't have a birth certificate, which costs money, he couldn't go. Nun Nhu Duc agreed to get him a birth certificate and put him in kindergarten for a year. The next school year starts in August this year and we would like to see him start school.

The first four photos give you some idea of the size of their home and the materials used to make it. Five people live in the little hut. Their kitchen is in one of the photos. Hoa is standing next to the kitchen. They cook outdoors under the open sky. Their bathroom is just a little in front of where Hoa is standing. It's also under the open sky. In the rainy season a river runs down the hill and through the hut.

Hoa is loved and cared for, but his father just can't earn much and his mother is still caring for the baby and can't work much.

The next three picture are of Binh or Bi as he is called and he lives with his aunt. His mother left her abusive and alcholic husband, but before leaving asked Binh's aunt, the sister of her husband to care for Binh. The aunt has lovingly looked after him with as much care as she can on her tiny income. His father lives nearby in a drunken and ill state as he is dying from alcohol related diseases even though he is only in his early thirties.

They live in two small, dark, damp rooms. They do have an indoor toilet.

We would love to find sponsors for each of these boys so they may have an education and have better lives than their folk. If you or any friends can help please get in touch: (Americans and Canadians) (Australians and others)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The trip to see the children of Binh Tu

I remember the first time I was going to meet the children in Binh Tu we made a fairly quick and easy trip by car. The nun who asked CEF to help the children organized the car and off we went and an hour later we were there. We went from house to hut meeting the children and their families, asking questions, accumulating information and visually assessing their situations. That day we met 18 children and ended up helping 13 of the poorest.

The cost of petrol just keeps climbing making the price of a car and driver the same price as putting a child through school for a term, making us only consider a car when it is really and truly required. So since then it hasn't been such an easy trip as we go by motorbike and travel on a highway for some of the trip with vehicles moving very fast, at us. You notice the overtaking habits of cars, buses and trucks much more when you are on a motorbike and not protected in a car. The overtaking cars and trucks often force vehicles travelling in the opposite direction off the road or at least onto the very edge of the road. Pollution control is close to non-existant here so every so often clouds of black exhaust fumes are inhaled.

But having said all that it is worth it to make the regular education payments and reassessment trips to see the children and to enjoy some time with them. Also this farming community lives in the countryside surrounded by rice fields. The one and quarter hour motorbike trip is visualy beautiful as it is mainly spent passing bright green rice fields and small farming communities.

The photos the children took

Yesterday we went to make some school payments at Binh Tu. It's usually a very formal occasion with the passing over of funds, the signing of receipts and discussions about the latest school results. It ended up an enjoyable time with some seriousness doled out here and there when required.

These are shots by, and of children in Binh Tu that we have organized sponsorships for. A few of the children were interested in trying out the camera and these are what they took. I am in one and the nun that appears in a few shots is Nun Nhu Duc and she is the head nun of Dieu Giac Pagoda in Binh Tu. She is also our coordinator for this project.