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.

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