Monday, April 28, 2014

Books for CEF instead of the couple receiving wedding presents

A kind, big-hearted couple who recently were married in Hoi An asked their wedding guests to give children's books to CEF instead of them receiving gifts.

CEF feels very blessed to have two large piles of gorgeous and humorous children's books. Some took me down memory lane as they were books my children had adored. There were many very useful  books; picture books with words for learning names of objects and animals, and some great number books that will help the children with their numbers too.

Also in the piles of books were some lovely coloring books. So that many can have the opportunity to have such lovely coloring books we have photocopied them and they are already being enjoyed!

Thank you so much for your thoughtfulness which allows many to benefit!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Constantly changing circumstances of the children and their families

Today we went into the mountains to see 14 of the children who are sponsored by CEF.   Every time we see these farming families several have changed circumstances.

There was food drying on pavements and roads. We were told the peanut harvest was good, the corn and chili harvests were too.

The last rice crop was not good for many in Central Vietnam due to mice enjoying the delicious rice,  the bad storms and heavy rains just as the rice was ready to harvest. The result was many farmers were in debt at the end of the last rice harvest without enough rice to feed themselves and their families.

Soon they will be harvesting their rice and they all hope it will be a good harvest. Weather conditions have been favorable and mice damage much less. Most therefore hope to have sufficient rice to feed themselves and their family and to sell some or exchange it for other foods. Others hope to pay back their rice debt with rice. Hopefully they can reduce other debts if it's good harvest, which they think it will be.

The choice of work besides their farming work is very limited. A second income makes a big difference. One family was able to buy a wardrobe, a desk for their daughter, and a new glass table to eat at, and new chairs because they had some extra work. There is replanting of forests, cutting of tress, carrying timber and loading limber into trucks. Most who work in the forests sustain back injuries;  farming is all they then can manage after that. In some areas that aren't isolated a furniture company occasionally employs people to make cane chairs in their homes.

Some have been growing chilies for Chinese consumption. China's demands change constantly affecting the mountain population. Now China no longer imports chilies from Vietnam so all the chilies we saw drying will now be sold locally in Vietnam at a low competitive price. Tobacco can be grown in some of the mountainous districts and we saw it hanging to dry.

Animal husbandry is another way families try to boost their income, but we constantly hear stories about how all their poultry or pigs died. With all the animal diseases here it is a high risk investment leaving many with a loan and no livestock.

Changes in health affect families greatly too. The father of one family can no longer work in the forests due to severe back injury so their income is way down. One single mother with diabetes can't easily get affordable good medication, so her health is up and down, only allowing her to work a few hours a day; limiting her income greatly. One widower couldn't find work for about 6 months and his financial situation was very bad; now he has work their situation is stable.

One granny who is looking after her daughters' three children needs major spinal surgery soon. This means there will be many expenses, a loan, future repayments, and one less income in the family as someone will have to stop work to look after her and the children. 

Another factor that can change circumstances greatly is constructing a new home. Today two of the fourteen families are building small strong homes. This is possible due to gifts of funds from their local government and large loans. These families will now have stable homes that can bear the brunt of bad storms, but now they have large debts that involve monthly interest payments until they pay off their loans.

Our experience today confirmed how important it is that we do the home visits, and have the opportunity to see them and to talk with them about changes in their situations, so we can assess whether further short term or long term support is needed, or if they need less support. Rice farming families mainly live an unstable life with weather conditions changing their lives from being just sustainable to being bad. Their children's education and health suffers with a poor harvest. CEF too is affected by the weather as we need to adjust the support for farming families to ensure their children have enough education support, but sometimes food and medical support too.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

We briefly saw all our Quang Nam children this weekend

It was lovely to see all our Quang Nam children and one of their parents, or grandparents or relatives over the last two days! We made school payments for the second term and so we only saw them briefly to do the necessary paperwork and to take a quick photo. And while we waited for the last of the children to arrive two of our little angels sang for us which was delightful.

We now are doing all payments in government offices in each of the children's home area or near their home area. This is a new step for us to work so closely with a government partner. It has involved many more work days and masses more paperwork naturally, but is also a positive step.

It helps us with accountability too and it also means we can ask them to make sure that a child and family is truly deserving of CEF's support and help. Fairly recently we interviewed a child and we were a little dubious about their situation as mum was incredibly shy and not forthcoming, making it very difficult to know the full story. Our partner organization in that area confirmed that they were very poor.

Over the next 7 weekends we will be visiting each one in their homes for a more in depth end of year assessment. As tiring as these days are we, thoroughly enjoy having time with the children and families. We feel that it is very important to know each family well, know their situation and their challenges and to be able to help where appropriate.