Sunday, July 31, 2011

Three drawings

Here are three lovely pictures by three young girls in the sponsorship program in Quang Nam. Although the girls who did these drawings are young, one already knows what she wants to do when she finishes school; she wishes to be a doctor. She loves the sciences at school and all the details in her picture are amazingly accurate for such a young child.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The beach outing isn't far off now!

Well it's now only 9 days until our beach outing with the Quang Nam children we have in sponsorship programs here! We are expecting around 40 of the children for the day.

We have some Vietnamese swimming instructors, a Japanese, an Australian, and a Scottish one! We have two life guards and nine more sets of eyes at present and still 8 days to go before the event.

I am still raising funds for this day and trying to get a few more strong swimmers and sets of eyes. Everything else is close to organized including Miriam coming back from Australia with a huge container of sunscreen!

It's a beautiful beach and we are quite likely at this time of year to have lovely weather althogh rather hot. We hope it will be a day for them to remember including having lots of fun, making new friends, and having swimming lessons and a water safety talk. They should be going home with some confidence in the water and an understanding of water safety and will be taking home a photo of themselves at the beach!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Phuong now has help to complete her schooling

A child's life can change just with a little money. Funds from two raffles can even change a child's future!

Since November 2010, examiners who work on the IELTS test at UTS have been supporting CEF's work twice a month when they examine on Saturdays.

On two Saturdays this year they have held a bottle raffle (champagne, vodka and wine). These raffles have raised $260, which has meant that a young girl, Phuong, is now able to complete her last year of school.

Phuong's father died of cancer five years ago. Her mother was born with many health problems, including being born with no hair. She has ongoing poor health, but when well enough grows rice and works as a laborer. She doesn't earn enough to care for her children and pay family expenses, let alone send them to school.

In May this year, the mother sent Phuong's younger sister to a pagoda 10 kilometers away to be looked after because she couldn’t afford to raise both of them. Huynh her sister, is now a novice Buddhist nun.

Phuong wasn't going to be able to go back to school and complete her education. The plan was for her to work in the home and on the small farm. She now will be able to do grade 12. She has a keen interest in fashion and design and would like to study in this field after she finishes school. She is very enthusiastic about her interest and is a lovely, dynamic girl.

These funds raised through the raffles have made it possible for Phuong to have a sponsorship and finish her education. They not only will pay her education fees, but will also provide her with school uniforms, school books, notebooks, stationery, school insurance, extra tuition and a raincoat and food as well, since the mother can't afford to buy much food.

Thanks so much to those who generously donated the bottles and to all those who bought the raffle tickets. You all have changed a girls future!

The response has been just fantastic so they are planning to continue to have raffles! I can dream....but maybe those forthcoming funds from the raffles can help pay for Phuong's future studies.....

Friday, July 15, 2011

Letters that affirm the importance of educational support programs

The children that CEF helps to receive an education can't afford to go to school or to receive further education or training. Besides supporting them to receive a full education, including college or further training, we care for them and support them to flourish.

Through the process of receiving caring support to accomplish this we see them grow and change; they gain self-respect, self-worth and have more gratitude; but what is most inspiring is that they hold hope for, and work towards a brighter future.

We want to share just a few of the letters we just received recently that express some of this.

First of all, I would like to send my best wishes and appreciation to you. Thank you for caring about me and my family’s situation.

Please let me share and express my family’s situation. I was raised in a family where I don’t have my parents beside me. When I was 9 years old, my parents killed themselves and left their 3 children with grandparents. My grandparents at that time although were late 50 year olds, but they didn’t send us to an orphan center and have been raising us until now. They were poor and now getting poorer because of 3 of us.

I am so happy you would like to help me since you knew our situation. Not only that you are now helping me to have free English classes. Really I don’t know what to say except two words “Thank You” and I don’t know how to return my gratitude to you except promising to myself that I must study harder to get good results so that you won’t be disappointed at me.

Thank you for helping me to get education support. You are my strength, my confidence and a hoping tablet that helps me still continue going to school to finish my education. Thank you very much.

Please continue with your good works to help more children who have the same poverty situation like me.

Finally I wish you good health and lots of happiness.

First of all I wish you good health.

As you know I live with my grandparents who are 80 years old, my father died of cancer, my mother remarried and lives with her new family up in the mountain; I have no contact with her since she got remarried.

Although I am not, compare to other families, a rich person from a rich family as I don’t have a happy family where the parents are beside the children. But I do have grandparents who cherish me since my parents left me. Besides I still have another couple of hoping arms who always observe and care for my education as well as my life; that is you dear sponsor.

Because of your care I feel you are with me and always encouraging me to do anything in this life from small things to big things. Your help is not just material support but it is also spiritual support and therefore I appreciate very much what you have been doing for me. Thank you very much.

This school year I will be in grade 5; I know I am not mature yet but at least I have made a lot of efforts in this life and in studies. Last school year I was a good student; are you happy for me? I always tell myself to study harder to obtain good results so that I know my sponsor won’t be disappointed at me.

Finally, I would like to say again “thank you” and please take care of you.

Today I write you a letter to report my school results. Last school year I was a medium student. I know my school results weren’t good but if you could imagine that if you didn’t help me continue going to school then my school results might be worse and I had to study again for another year of grade 6.

For what I have achieved I know your support has been a huge help to my family. I have my mother beside me and she can look after my little brother so that I can have more time for my studies. Your support is a big spiritual help for me. Thank you so much and I am very grateful for what you have done. Thank you

Please continue helping me and other children who have the same poverty situation like me. I hope all the poor children can receive your help like you did for me in last school year.

Finally, I wish you good health and everything to your liking.

As you know my father died when he was still young, my mother is a disable person, my family is one of the poor families in this area. So I thank you very much for your support that you have given me last year. Without your help I don’t think I could continue going to school.

With your help I have made a lot of improvement in my studies and last school year I was a good student with high marks 8.1. I promise I will try to keep this good result for this school year so that you won’t be disappointed in me.

Thank you very much, I wish you good health and lots of happiness and luck in this life.

Today I am so happy to write you a letter. First of all, I wish you and your family good health as always.

How are you? How is your work? Are you still helping other children who have the same poverty situation like me?

About my family; we would like to say “thank you” to you as you have been helping my family so much. My family has overcome a lot of difficulties because of having your support and your compassion. Your help has made me feel equal to other friends of mine in the school. I don’t know what to say except saying two words “Thank You”. My father is still working as normal; I was an excellent student for last school year and happy to inform you my school results.

I have been wishing always my family’s situation could be better each day and it is getting better and I am so happy for our life improvements.

I promise to you that I will study harder as always to get the best results no matter how hard it will be; so that you won’t be disappointed at me.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Visit from Lien

Has anyone guessed what Lien drew when she came to visit earlier today? Need a clue? Two clues: The seeds are edible and the color Lien used is pretty close to the real seeds. Ok I know you give up. It's a lotus plant with many seeds in the head and clearly has lost all its leaves.

Lien is a little nun. Her four year old brother is dying of cancer, the mother is trying to care for her dying sibling and her father has left them. She now lives in a pagoda where she is well cared for. She hasn't been there long and is still a little undernourished, but is happy there and putting on weight.

She needs a sponsor to help her receive a full education. Even when a child becomes a nun the pagodas try to find help for them to receive a full education as nuns are valuable members of society, with them assisting the poor to get help, and working in the community as untrained and unpaid social workers and therapists. Quite a few become teachers. The more education they have, the more useful they are to their community and hopefully better nuns too for having that extra education and life experience. Those who can get the financial support go to university.

No water

A few days ago we did home visits of the children we sponsor or are about to sponsor. We are looking for a sponsor for the little boy in this particular family as he needs to start school and it will be a year later than most children start.

This family lives in a very basic dirt-floored shack made from bamboo and other plant materials with a sheet of plastic to keep the driving rain out. They have no bathroom or kitchen facilities, or running water. Not having a kitchen or bathroom is very normal with poor families, they just cook outdoors and go out back as far as they can to go to the bathroom and do a trip somewhere to collect water. This family had a baby and a little boy, and no well or stream nearby, so I wondered where did they have go to get their water and who did this chore.

Many of Vietnam's poor have to collect water from quite some distance away drilling for water and building a well is expensive. I realized over the last few days how incredibly lucky I am to live in a house without dirt floors, and to have a bathroom, kitchen and pretty constant running water, and don't have to do an arduous trip to collect water each and every day of my life.

I don't recall ever having to collect water in the past, but do remember the water being turned off for several days at a time when we lived in Hong Kong, but we didn't have to go any where to collect water. We filled up baths and just had to be careful with the amount we used.

Now I have been collecting it for three days as there is no running water in my house. It's not a plumbing problem, but a Hoi An water problem and as my Vietnamese is not very good I just understand that the town water has been cut off as many people have been getting sick, sick enough to end in hospital and serious enough for the local government to shut it off. Evidently it had started to taste bad and smell bad. Small amounts now are being released, but with very little pressure, so it's dribbling into outdoor taps now. So I take the dishes to the outside tap in a bowl for washing. I have a watering can and a bucket of water in the bathroom. Each day I have to allow extra time for water collecting, but maybe only 20 minutes a day.

But if there wasn't a tap nearby how far would I need to go, how much extra time would be needed for water collecting? I wonder about the family we visited the other day. How many trips does the mother have to do to collect water with the baby on her hip or on her back? How much of her day is taken up with water collecting, and all year through too?

It has made me painfully aware of how much water I have been using and wasting, and now I know how much less I can use. Blessings come in many disguises!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Inflation in Vietnam

Inflation is affecting every aspect of life here in Vietnam.

My Vietnamese friends especially comment on the cost of food. Food is important to them, not just for sustenance, but a woman shows her skills through her cooking, shows her love for her man and for her children through her delicious food. She also shows respect for her mother-in-law by cooking well for her.

They are not happy when meals have to become simple, minus garnishes, with less variety and less protein. Rice is crucial, the central focus of a meal and the price of it has been increasing year on year making it harder for people to create an appetising meal. More and more people have to buy cheaper, poor quality rice and consequently enjoy their rice less.

I have been on our yearly home visits over the last month and what I have noticed is that the animals are looking more skinny than usual. I was concerned and mentioned it to my assistant-translator and he said, "It is normal now, most animals look very skinny. You can tell the true wealth of a family by their animals. If the animals are well-fed and look healthy the family is well-off. If the animals look like the ones of this family they have a shortage of food and are very poor."

We plan on giving a food allowance to more families this year because a child who is poorly nourished can't concentrate on their schooling and thinks about their hunger instead. A Vietnamese friend of mine used to get hit by her teacher for not concentrating on her school lessons. She said she couldn't concentrate as she was always hungry and weak. When it was time for a school break she and her friends, who were the poorest, would search the grounds of the school and neighbors’ yards for anything edible. In the process she found many plants that were. She was lucky they were!

Anyone who wants to make donations specifically for food please do and make sure we know that donation is for food.

Education costs have increased in some schools by as much as 20%. Schools are also asking parents to pay part of the teachers’ salaries. Schools are taking more classes out of school time and making them compulsory extra tuition. This means that children have to do these classes to receive their education, but they are out of normal school hours and have to be paid for on top of their other school costs. So now this new extra tuition on top of the normal school costs makes education even further beyond the means of the poor.

Understandably, we have had more requests for educational help from many poor people. We apply our criteria, but it is hard to decide who to help and who to refuse. In reality, just about everyone we assess is deserving of some help.

Here are some inflation related quotes from Vietnamese friends and publications. (prices are in Vietnamese dong, VND. One US or Australian dollar is worth about 20, 000 dong)

"I know the inflation is 35% or more. For example, last year for 60,000VND you could buy 1kg of meat. But now 1kg of meat is 120,000VND."

"Last year one kg of rice was 8,600 and this year I am paying 11,000 for 1 kg (which means 28% inflation). Last year the price for one pack of noodles was 2,000 and this year I am paying 3,000 (50% inflation). Last year I paid for one litre of petrol 17,000 and this year I am paying 21,500 per litre (29% inflation). They (the government) say we have 10% inflation, but it is not correct. The costs are high, poor people are getting poorer and it is a crisis right now."

On BBC Business News:
"The increases in energy, electricity and petroleum indicate that we are going to see inflation get a little worse despite the shift in government policy," said Christian de Guzman of Moody's Investor Group.

The Economic Times, International Business:
Vietnam June inflation tops 20%, the highest since Nov 2008 Reuters Jun 24, 2011, 11.34am IST
HANOI: Vietnam's inflation rate topped 20% in June, its fastest annual rise since November 2008.

GQ Business Report:
Just ask Ngo Thi Bau, the general director of Nguyen Tam Foci Garment, which a Vietnamese consumer magazine for years dubbed one of Vietnam’s 100 strongest brands."This year, plunging revenue has led Bau to lay off 60 percent of her Ho Chi Minh City-based firm’s 400 workers. Her business has been battered by sharply higher consumer prices and the sky-high interest rates – up to 20 percent – that borrowers now face. In May and again in June, food costs surged nearly 30 percent from a year earlier, while transport was up about 20 percent."