Monday, April 22, 2013

A visit to two girls in CEF's education sponsorship program (Guest blog and photos by Kerry)

A very special day!

Today we were to get a rare insight into the world of two little girls, named Tam (14 years old in the pink) and Ngoc ( 12 years old) who we sponsor through C.E.F. in Vietnam.(

Tam and Ngoc and their younger brother lost their father in a motorbike accident over a year ago.This has been a very sad situation for this young family on so many levels.
Their mother left as sole carer and breadwinner, was placed in difficult situation in regard to the continuation of schooling for the girls. Thankfully C.E.F. was advised by a local Buddhist Nun,( seen pictured here with Linda's assistant and Linda) and once their needs were assessed, C.E.F went into action to try and find a sponsor.

Linda Burn the founder of the charity and I met on a previous cooking tour of Vietnam as she sidelines as a travel guide to support herself and her charity. We stay in contact and when she alerted me of this situation last year, Andrew and I were happy to step up and take up sponsorship.

As many people do when they donate to a charity like this, beyond the initial payments, we don't often think about how our donation actually plays out in the individual's lives. As Andrew and I were to be in Vietnam and close to where the girls lived,( about 45 mins out of Hoi An), I asked Linda if we could arrange to meet, which she kindly organised and accompanied us with an interpreter.

It was such a humbling and rewarding experience to meet the girls. I wanted them to know us, and to believe we have their best interests at heart. They both study hard and their grades are excellent. English not being their first language and sparingly taught in the schools, we learned through the interpreter that Ngoc's favorite TV show is a cartoon called Tom and Jerry. Who would have thought! Tam loves Literature and Ngoc is into Physics. They are poor but proud. Their home is humble but they have a small piece of land the mother can sow and harvest rice from to earn a living, and they have 3 new piglets which makes them extremely happy as this also can bring in an income.

I can't tell you how much it meant to us to see the girls and for a short while gain an appreciation of their lives and the challenges they face and will face in the future. An education is everything to a Vietnamese as it is the only way for them to go beyond manual labour in markets or harvesting rice or worse sold off as a mail order bride. It was even a treat to play with the play dough we brought for the younger brother, who was totally in awe of this colourful moldable stuff and went to give it back to us before we left, as he didn't think it was for him. I think that's why we got the "peace sign" attempt Andrew had been working on with him in the last pic.

My praise goes to Linda and her team for the work they do. It does truly cost so little to sponsor a child here, and I am glad we took them both. They loved the small little gifts we gave them and it gave us such great pleasure to just be there.

Further down the way on the same day, Linda took us to meet another girl, Trang, who we sponsored just for her last term. Apparently it was very much appreciated as without it she would not have been able to go on and gain a scholarship to learn to be a PE teacher. She is pictured here with Andrew.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Vietnamese read less than 1 book a year

"Vietnamese read less than one book/year" was the title of an article in VietNamNet Bridge.

Children's Education Foundation started a mobile library this academic year to help increase the love of reading and literacy amongst the children in our education programs. Initially we are taking books to all the children in our programs throughout Quang Nam and in Da Nang; most of whom live in the countryside. As we have more funding and consequently more books, they will be lent to all family relatives.

Part of the article follows which helps to give a good picture of how little reading takes place here:
"Vietnamese people read 0.8 books a year on average, said an official of the Ministry of Culture - Sports - Tourism at a press conference last week. The figure stunned the press.

Preparing for the Festival of Books and Reading Culture 2013, titled "The book that changes life," Deputy Minister Huynh Vinh Ai had a passionate speech about the importance of books at the press conference on April 12.

Another official from the Ministry, Mrs. Nguyen Thi Thanh Mai, released some sadly information about reading in Vietnam. According to Mai, compared to other countries in Southeast Asia, the proportion of people reading books in Vietnam is quite low. On average, Vietnamese read 0.8 book/year (less than one book). The rate at public libraries is 0.38 book/person.

Mr. Nguyen Quang Thach, who initiated the project to bring books to the countryside, said that he conducted a survey in 2011. All 253 respondents who were farmers said they did not read book. Rural children read 0.2-0.8 book/year compared to 5 books/year for urban kids."