Sunday, May 20, 2012

An overdue trip to Vietnam by Gael McKenzie

Having been on the board of CEF for about 5 years now and a very close friend of Linda’s for close to 15 – my recent visit to Vietnam was a trip way too long overdue! It was wonderful to finally experience first-hand the amazing work that Linda remains so hugely passionate about.

My husband Steve and I combined our annual holiday with some rewarding and inspiring time with Linda and her CEF team based in Hoi An – with an added bonus of visiting 15 families in remote areas of Quang Nam Province in Central Vietnam – all of whom have a daughter sponsored by CEF donors.

Most of the families had been devastated by the death or severe illness of a parent and were living in primitive, very basic homes. Yet we discovered families who have a renewed sense of hope now that their daughter is being given the opportunity of an education and consequently the possibility of employment and/or career in their adult years. I observed a total respect and gratitude for what they are receiving through CEF and this shone through in the appreciation and love the children and families extend towards Linda.

It never ceases to amaze me that amidst the most devastating poverty, a kindness and generosity of spirit so often prevail. We were offered tea and snacks, even a meal by the families, and it was plain to see that they valued their hospitality and our wellbeing over and above the reality of feeding themselves in the days to come. It was quite extraordinary and another reminder of the value differences we can observe in developing countries.

I came away asking myself: How can one not want to support such open-hearted people? Steve and I are looking forward to supporting Dinh Thi Thanh Thuy through her education in the years to come.

All photos by Gael McKenzie of 'Gael's Photography' Web:
Ph: 0404 060086

A few of Gael's photos from her day of home visits with Children's Education Foundation

Gael McKenzie
Gael's Photography
Ph: 0404 060086

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Children's Education Foundation is committed to helping these girls next year when they are old enough to start school

These children come from very poor families. Some of the children in these families have already been removed from school at a young age and the parents know that without financial help they will need to withdraw more of their children and not put in their youngest when they reach school age. The sadness on the parents faces shows when they talk about this reality. Therefore Children's Education Foundation - Vietnam has already committed to helping these little ones when they are old enough to start school next year.

We believe an education gives a child a better future with many more choices; the potential to have a very good income, be able to help their extended family out of poverty, be content to marry later and have children later, have more self-respect and greater intolerance of disrespect and abuse, be a better farmer, parent and partner, and make a positive contribution to their local community.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Too small to get funding?

When an organization is very small it is almost impossible to get funding.

For example we have enough funds to have staff, but the minimum amount of staff we require. As we have the minimum staff, they don't have any spare time for writing detailed funding proposals, which of course all funders want.

Funders also require accountability; which means reports. As we have minimum staff they don't have time for extra report writing. So how do we get funding? Or do we just stay very small and not get any funding?

This has to be faced by all small non-government organizations at some stage, and there is no obvious answer to how each of us break the 'catch 22' situation.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

What else is needed besides an education for a girl to choose outside the box

Children's Education Foundation wants girls to have a future with choices. What does that demand?

An education is needed to have choices:
If you are uneducated your choices are severely limited here. The future of an uneducated female looks like what I see almost every day; an early marriage to a so so man, the first child within the first year of marriage, some verbal and physical abuse, struggle to make ends meet and then the cycle continues with them not being able to afford to educate their children. Or it might be the other common option we see; no marriage, no permanent man and one, two or three children, and they struggle to make ends meet and find it almost impossible to send any of the children to school. At present we are helping quite a few single mothers with the education costs for their children.

But the cycle is inclined to continue and continue.... female, traditional and cultural conditioning is very strong in such traditional societies as in Vietnam. With a decent income at least it removes most of the daily back-breaking struggle. but hat is not enough to make conscious wise choices outside of the traditions one knows.

What else does it take to have a future with choices:
What does it take for a young woman in Vietnam to be brave enough, bold enough and knowledgeable enough to take a different step forward in a society that doesn't encourage such conscious modern boldness at all?

A girl I know is getting married this week and her situation has triggered me to complete working on an additional program we can do here besides giving academic education to many girls. She is an intelligent, English-speaking, university-educated 26 year old woman and is choosing to marry a lazy uneducated man, who is also a heavy drinker. His family are traditional vegetable farmers and she will now have to get up at 3am to pick the vegetables before the sun rises. At 6am when she finishes she will get ready for work, eat her breakfast and then go to her daytime job. Her parents are intelligent and have not done everything totally traditionally. Her mother for example married late, is hard working and is now a student Buddhist nun and her husband accepts this. He is an intelligent hard-working man.

Her choice will mean a hard life; this seriously struck home how strong our female, traditional and cultural conditioning is that a choice like that can be made!  There are many good traditions here, which I don't want girls to deny or reject, but in a society that teaches by rote, being reflective and making conscious choices out of the mold is rare here.

The program I am working I hope will start the process of the girls we work with being more reflective, and conscious of the choices they make.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Hi, my name is Barbara and I have been a friend of Linda's for many years now and as such became a first hand witness to Lindas' passionate work in Vietnam. I personally love the idea that Linda’s support is not just generally about helping children. but specifically about helping girls as so many girls in developing and third world countries just don’t get the same attention and support as boys. In those countries it is still a widespread conviction that girls – women are only good for having children, doing the cooking, or are available to abuse; physically or sexually. They are expected to bring funds in and that means they are sometimes prostituted, sold off or sent out to beg in the streets. 

Being a woman myself and having a daughter of my own it breaks my heart to realise how many girls out there fall under this very damaging judgement knowing that women can do so much more, and many things even better than men; just like vice versa. 

In 2007 I took my daughter to Vietnam as it was a long term wish of mine to visit Linda in Vietnam and see first hand what she was doing and get to know the country she was now living in. It was such an eye opening experience and it definitely confirmed to me what a good idea it was to support Linda’s work. And my daughter was so inspired and so impressed that she also decided to take on a sponsor child together with her brother. So now we have 2 girls in our family we are sponsoring and every time Linda sends the updates it brings tears to my eyes to realise that these 2 girls now have a much better chance in life than they would have had without Linda. 

The older one of the two is now going to University and I do hope that she really finds a way to independence which will enable her to then raise her own kids in a very different mindset to that of many others who haven’t had the good fortune to get support from someone else to better their lives. And even if she does not start an academic job, at least she knows how to write and read, she knows maths and some other general knowledge which definitely will set her up for a much better life than prostitution or begging. 

It took me a while to accept that even supporting only 2 children makes a huge difference as I felt so helpless when I was in Vietnam seeing the vastness of help needed. But I know, and Linda does too, we cannot help everyone. But everyone helped is better than nothing and invaluable for those at the receiving end, and that includes the families.

Thank you Linda for your ongoing work and I hope that you will find many more sponsors to help even more girls. Maybe it is time for me too to take on the next one.

Barbara Simon
Back Care Solutions - Therapist - Trainer - Author
 P.O. Box 519, Avalon, NSW, 2107 Ph: 0407946294