Wednesday, July 18, 2012

About Phuc Le Education Program - Guest blog by Brian

At first glance the village of Phuc Le resembles a picture postcard of Vietnam. Lying, as it does, among lush green rice fields, on the soil rich floodplains of the Red River and its tributaries, the village presents an idyllic picture. And it is indeed a picturesque place. Mostly small brick and mortar cottages, nestled among the many fruit trees planted by residents, intersected with meandering narrow concrete pathways. Dotted throughout are many small ponds, often covered with colourful water lilies; and a haven for the fish, being nurtured as an important food source for the villagers. However, as is often the case, appearances can be deceiving. Behind this picture and that presented by the personal cleanliness and neatness of the residents, lies a story of a constant struggle by many against poverty. The majority of families eke out a living from the small rice plot they lease from the Government (average 1,000 Sq Metre – about the size of the average house block in Australia or US). After setting aside enough grain for the family’s own use, the remainder is sold to realise a small cash income, about $US300 annually. Where circumstances and opportunity allow, families attempt to supplement their farming activities with other sources of cash income. Some get casual labouring work on local building sites. Others opt for one parent to leave and take work in a factory near one of the big cities. But then there are those who, because of broken relationships, poor health and other reasons are unable to avail themselves of such opportunities. Bui Chu is a young man from Phuc Le, who has a strong desire to the children in his village get the same opportunities in life through education that he has had. Chu has for some years assisted CEF in identifying those families in greatest need, in terms of providing an education for their children. As a part-time (infrequent) assistant to Linda and the CEF team, it has been a great pleasure, indeed a privilege, for me to be able to accompany Chu on five occasions as part of the annual monitoring of students in receipt of CEF support. It is so humbling to sit with these families, who despite their impoverished dwellings and the very hard and difficult lives they lead, are so welcoming and hospitable; and so appreciative of the help. Above all, I delight in having, over the years, been able to watch our students grow and change, many now showing the benefits of their education in their emerging assertiveness and self-confidence. I can only say that all of you who have contributed to giving these kids a chance of a better life can be assured that it is appreciated. A new generation of young people is emerging that, unlike their forebears, will not be sentenced to a life of slaving in the rice fields. On behalf of the kids of Phuc Le - A GREAT BIG THANK YOU.

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