Saturday, December 26, 2015

Thoughts about why very poor children work hard at school ~ Guest blog by CEF staff Thuy

She helps her single mum with making small lanterns, but she is also an excellent student

For the very poor and disadvantaged children to get the same school results as children who are not from poor families, they have to make much more effort. Due to their low income, most poor parents can’t spend enough time and money on their children’s education.

Some of the parents have financial stress and it affects not only their emotions and behavior, but also their children. Lack of good study conditions (text books, reference books, tutoring and good health care) are a big disadvantage. Poor children also have less studying time than others because they have to help their families to do housework or even help their parents to earn more money in various ways, such as making straw mats, or working on the farm.

She helps her mum with straw mat making but it does affect her school results

Children with a disadvantaged situation generally have two approaches; the children study much harder and make lot of efforts in order that they can have a better future and some just give up due to it being too hard and go on to live a life like their parents do.

Most of students that CEF supports have ‘Good’ and ‘Fair’ school results as they understand how important education is and how it affects their future. Some students have excellent school results and are the best students at their school. They study so hard and spend most of their time trying their best to get those results. When I asked the exceptional students about their motivation, they answered that they want to make their parents feel happy and proud of them, and to have a good future to help their parents and themselves.

I think the reasons why some poor children study very hard at school is to overcome the difficulties in their life, to have a brighter future and for some it is simply to make their parents happy and proud of them. It’s also the reason why we always advice and encourage all our CEF students to keep working hard and making great effort with their schooling.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Funds raised for Tet Food Parcels for poor families CEF works with in Quang Nam

Tet', or Vietnamese New Year will be bountifully celebrated by some of our CEF families in Vietnam because of the generosity and support of LTC staff.

Raffle tickets were bought by the staff of a Sydney based company 'Language and Testing Consultants' who ran IELTS tests on December 5 and 12 at the University of Technology Sydney. They bought enough raffle tickets to enable us to present 22 Tet Food Parcels to some very poor families we work with in Vietnam.

Thank you to all of you at LTC who support our work in Vietnam, and especially to those of you who gave wonderful raffle prizes and to Graeme for organizing the raffle.


When they are poor they can't celebrate Tet ~ Guest Blog by CEF staff Thuy

Tet is the most important, popular and longest festival in Vietnam. This period begins one or two weeks before the actual celebration. It is traditional that before Tet every single household decorates their home, cooks traditional Tet food, organizes their end of year party, buys new clothes for their children, and prepares 'lucky money' for their children and their elders. 

People also try to pay off their debts and resolve all the arguments among colleagues, friends or family members. During Tet, people also have many small parties with families and friends. With all those required activities you can imagine how much people spend and need to spend before and during the Tet holiday.

Tet is also the time for everybody to go back to their hometown, gather with their family, visit relatives and friends, and have a relaxing time after a year of working hard. 

For very poor people will they feel the same about Tet? Will it be a meaningful time for them? Will they feel happy, excited and relaxed about Tet and during Tet? Or will they feel worry, stress and ashamed because they have too many things they are expected to spend money on but they can’t afford to do so?  

Monday, November 16, 2015

Parents trying to make ends meet by having help from their children

Her mother has been a  mat maker for many years. Her husband sometimes helps her, but also she has taught her daughter, who is a CEF student, how to make mats. So when her husband can't work, she helps mum.

Making mats does not create much of an income as they usually sell for about $3 each. But this mother has been making beautiful mats for a long time so the local government has designated her home as the home to go to to see mat making. They give her a small amount of funds for each tourist who comes to see her working. This boosts her income, so it makes it even more important that her daughter can help if tourists come and her husband isn't available to work with her.

The reeds grow locally and are dyed beautiful colors. 

The mats are a lot of work, on average taking two people two days to make one.  The final product is beautiful.

It is not unusual that the parents get help from their children to make ends meet. It could be with the rice  farming, with shelling the peanuts, taking lotus seeds out of the heads, or feeding the pigs or chickens. It is hard for many to make a living and having help from the children can make a difference.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Thai Binh Trip ~ a wonderful experience ~ Guest blog by CEF staff Ngoc

It is amazing that I had a chance to visit all the children in a community in Tha Binh province - our children in the north, about 3 hours from Ha Noi by car. For me it is great to work with the children there so that I have more understanding about them and their lives. Obviously, there are differences in poverty in the 3 areas we work with; Da Nang, Quang Nam and Thai Binh. However, generally speaking, they are all very poor and in need of being supported by CEF. 

The CEF children and their families in this area are very honest and friendly. They make their living mainly from doing farming, raising fish, pigs and chickens. They have to work hard from early morning till late afternoon and in the evenings occasionally; however their incomes are quite low. From my point of view they are poor because they have lots of children. I was surprised that out of 30 poor families we work with, only around 10% of them have 2 children, 20% of them have 3 children and 70% of them have from 4 to 7 children. The children’s parents are not well educated, with some only attending the first few years of school. They are very religious and traditional as well, so I feel it is hard for them to know how to deal responsibly with their practical and financial needs.   Therefore many of them end up with large debts for their bills and living costs, and all their children’s education. Besides that, there is still serious discrimination between boys and girls in this area and many believe that the girls should not have much education. 

So, in my opinion, it is really important that CEF is able to support the girls there to finish their high school education and help those with great potential to have a tertiary education. It means they then have the potential to escape from poverty and change their future.  

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

An impressive Thai Binh student ~ Guest blog by CEF staff Ngoc

A lovely, determined and strong lady is what I see in Q, a 19 year old girl CEF student from the community we work with in Thai Binh province. I have had several chances to talk with Q via facebook and phone calls, and I was still impressed by talking face to face with her.
Q is from a poor family with challenging circumstances. Her mother had brain cancer for a long time and died shortly before she was due to start university in Ha Noi. Her family had quite a difficult situation at that time as her mother‘s health was seriously deteriorating. Her brother has mental illness too. Her brother suddenly became mentally ill 5 years ago just after he had passed university entrance exams in Ha Noi, and with high results too. He had to have 'treatments' which have still left him with mental illness, and her family is quite sad about this. 
Then, her father, whose health is not good, has had to become the sole breadwinner of the family. Q and her younger sister helped a lot with household chores and looked after their mother in her last months. At the time Q applied for university her mother’s health was deteriorating. All the relatives and neighbors, except her beloved father and auntie, strongly did not want her to go to university because of her family situation. They asked her to stay home and take care of her mother as well as work in the local factory to support her family. She was under stress at that time and struggled to make a decision. She loves studying and she thirst to have a university education. According to her, it is the only way to change her life and support her family in the future. However, while making her decision she always thought of her family - her unhealthy father, nearly dead mother, her mentally ill brother and lovely younger sister. She was in a difficult situation in which to make a decision for her future. She then knew that she passed university with a high result. I really admire her because under those hard circumstances, she did not neglect her studies and made the required efforts to pass university, and with an excellent mark. 
Her village is a small one so they discussed and talked about her and her family’s problems every day. She knew that. They  talked badly about her and the only two who always supported her were her father and auntie. However, she was very determined and decided to have  a university education although there were a lot of obstacles waiting for her. She overcame all gossip in her neighborhood and ignored their criticism because she strongly believes that education is the only, and the best way to escape from poverty and have a better future. 
She is a good example for a lot of girls in her village. I am proud of her whenever I talk about her with others. 

*Note: This student needs a sponsor or two to help her through university. Please contact CEF if  you can help.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Most of our high school students in Thai Binh wish to have a university education as a means towards ending the poverty of their families

Most of the CEF students in Thai Binh work really hard and wish to go to university, with several wanting to be doctors. Those three girls are totally capable of this goal as they are excellent students. 

We also have one student wanting to be a pharmacist, one a nurse, and one a business woman. The careers they are aiming  for are realistic and achievable. One of our students has a totally different goal; she wants to be a Catholic nun.

Most of the children we work with in this province know a tertiary education is the start to being in a position to help their families out of poverty. When they talk about the grinding poverty of their families some of them cry as they live in such challenging situations. 

The only way they will be able to go to university is if they are sponsored for the period of their  tertiary studies. We hope we can find sponsors who will help them achieve their goals. 

Visiting the community we work with in Thai Binh province

Thai Binh province is one of the areas where we have an education sponsorship program. We all love visiting this area as it feels like we are walking into the past. The families in this area are predominately Catholic and they are quite conservative. 

We enjoy the scenery as nearly every family in this community farms, so everywhere there is rice growing or rice straw; huge piles or trolley's of it drying out. Recently harvested rice is often drying out on the pavements or in the front yards of the farm houses. 

It is an experience of total immersion in a farming community.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Time with our CEF tertiary students in Ha Noi

I love this time with CEF's tertiary students in Ha Noi. Once a year I go to Ha Noi with a CEF staff member to see our tertiary students, do an update on each of them, sign contracts and give them funds for university.  This year two staff had some holiday together just before we met up with the students, so it was great that the two of them could meet the small handful of students studying in Ha Noi. Our coordinator who lives in Ha Noi was also able to meet us for the late afternoon and evening gatherings.

The students all come from Thai Binh province and they have been sponsored through CEF for many years. We first met them when they were young and tiny, and not even teenagers.  They are all very sweet adults now and it is wonderful to have some time with them.

We try to make it a treat for them and meet in a coffee shop for refreshments and then go to dinner. After dinner we went to Hoan Kiem Lake, had a walk, had ice creams and took photos. It was the first time two of the students had seen Hoan Kiem Lake and they were very excited.

(With the two newest students. It was their first time to see Hoan Kiem Lake)

(Photos by staff and some by Tinh, one of our students who is doing a masters degree in Ha Noi)

Monday, October 26, 2015

CEF mum supporting herself and her daughter by making and selling soy milk and tofu

Each morning one of our CEF mums makes fresh soy milk and tofu. Then she goes off on her bike selling her home-made products door to door to people in her local community. 

This is how this single mum has supported herself and her daughter since she was born. Mum still produces and sells and CEF started helping with her daughter's education once it became too expensive for her to afford 6 years ago.

Sometimes it is not easy to see what is the most appropriate care for a child

I wish to share a challenging subject and those of you who work in care, in orphanages, with orphans, or with very poor families, you are most welcome to share your experience as it would be helpful. My email address is at the end.

Here in Vietnam children who have been orphaned often move in with a living relative if the relative thinks they can afford to look after them. Sometimes they think they can, but they can't, and then they ask for help elsewhere; from local pagodas, the local community groups, neighbors and sometimes the media get involved and ask for help for them.

There are twins we are helping with their education and the media helped raise some money for them and their care. Their uncle cares for them and is a sincerely humble and kind man. He was an orphan and their mother helped care for him when he was young and so he wants to help care for them. He loves them and cares for them like his own children. But he is poor, so the initial help he received through the media has helped with initial costs such as their mothers funeral, but most of it has gone into the bank into accounts set up for the twins for their future.

Sometimes the children are a means to obtain money and the minimal care is given to them, and sometimes they suffer abuse. These carers can end up receiving regular funds from various sources, as everyone feels so sorry for the children. This is true of some orphanages here and carers of orphaned children.

We have a little girl whose parents died from AIDS, but she is unaffected. Granny who is a little 'unstable' is 'caring' for her. Granny is also not completely honest and we do not trust her. She lives in a one room house she had built, which is always dirty, messy and has all the garbage around it that she collects and recycles. The little girl is usually dirty and in filthy clothes. Granny also hits her as we have seen red welts on her. We felt although it is a horrible situation it was better than an orphanage and she is with family, but sometimes after we visit we wonder......

One of the pagodas that refers local families to us has said they would take her and look after her, after they heard this story, but they could only afford to do that if CEF paid for her education. A Vietnamese friend said she would also be happy to bring her up if CEF could pay for her education.

This is a granny who is benefiting from having this child in her care. But is the child benefiting? Should she stay with a granny who uses her and abuses her or should she go some where, where she will be cared for, and not used or abused? We work to keep families together and we have never contemplated taking a child away from their family, so we are torn.

Even if we decide she should be with someone, or people who care for her, respect her and nourish her, granny is unlikely to let go of her as she would lose her benefits.


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Today on International Women's Day we are looking for sponsors so that these girls can become women with choices

Today on International Women's Day we at CEF are please to know we are helping many girls to have an education; to have a future with more choices than their parents. We also know they are safe if they are in school, as it is a known fact that children in school are trafficked less.

These are three of the girls in need of sponsors, but we also have more girls who need sponsors. Some girls can be visited as they are within an hour or so from the office, but some the sponsors wouldn't be able to visit as the girls are too far from the CEF office; some even a flight and a long drive away.

Please consider sponsoring and let us know if you wish to sponsor a primary school child, secondary, high school girl or a young lady in tertiary education. Do you need to see her or are you happy to support a girl you won't meet?

All sponsors receive an annual update, photos, school results and a letter or two, or a drawing, depending on the age of the child.

Please sponsor a child, a child who really needs help to stay in school, so she is safe and will have a future with choices.


Sunday, October 11, 2015

International Day of the Girl Child and Why an Education is Important for Girls

It is wonderful to see that worldwide many organizations are making a stand to make the life of girls better.

Children's Education Foundation is passionate about educating girls here in Vietnam. All of us at CEF want to help impoverished and marginalized girls stay in school and complete their education to support their hopes and dreams of being educated as well as having the tools to reach their full potential.

There are many vital reasons to support females to be educated as the impact of giving a girl in a developing country a quality education can be felt in families, communities and in future generations. Below are a few:

Reducing Fertility Rates
The World Bank's research shows that when girls receive an education, they’ll have “fewer and healthier” babies.  One year of formal education can result in a 10% decrease in fertility due to being better informed about family planning, and are also more likely to marry later.

Lower Maternal and Child Mortality Rates
Girls who receive an education are less likely to contract HIV & AIDS, and thus, less likely to pass it onto their children.  The Comparative & International Education Society writes that their children are more likely to be vaccinated, and that educated mothers will be better informed about proper nutrition and health practices.

Future Educated Generations
By sending a girl to school, she is far more likely to ensure that her children also receive an education. As many claim, investing in a girl’s education is investing in a nation.

Higher Wages
The Girl Effect states that if a girl attends an additional year of primary school she’ll see her wages increase up to 20%.
Furthermore if she attends an additional year of secondary school, her wages could increase by 25%!

Investing in the Family
With these additional wages research shows that women are more likely to invest in their family.  In fact the Basic Education Coalition claims that women will reserve 90% of their income to better their families.  This economic savings will result in the betterment of not only individual families, but entire communities.

Thousands of girls, some as young as 7, will become a child bride.

Only 30% of girls in the world are enrolled in secondary school.       

One in seven girls in developing countries is married off before age 15.                                         

Women only hold 15.7% of top leadership positions in Fortune 500 companies.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Good news to share with Australians: CEF has GDR status!

Good news to share with Australians! Children's Education Foundation has been given GDR status. This means that from September 24, 2015, financial donations made in Australia over $2 can be claimed against tax you have paid. 

Friday, September 18, 2015

CEF received funds from chocolate sales which are helping two girls near the border to complete high school

CEF is lucky to have a team of chocolate sellers in Australia who have many chocolate-loving friends. Some of the profits are now helping two girls from near the Vietnam-Laos border to complete their education. Without this help their families could not afford to support them through this last year of their education.

Some of the funds are also being used for Anti-Trafficking education materials for the authorities in this area, the schools and the families and children. Girls living near the border are more vulnerable to being trafficked.

When the chocolate lovers are enjoying their chocolates I hope they realize that their purchase is giving a pleasure to others too, one that will last a life time.

 Typical countryside in the area where the girls in the scholarship program live
A typical home of the scholarship girls we are helping

Thursday, September 17, 2015

A kind and generous new sponsor for CEF

Our good news for the day is that this lovely grade 11 student has been sponsored! Her mother died when she was one year old and her grandparents helped bring her up, but now granddad has passed away and granny is very old and no longer able to look after herself.

Dad who is a garbage collector has been struggling to pay off mums medical bills since she passed away. Her new and very sweet and generous sponsor has offered to pay off the remainder of their loan! Sometimes our sponsor's kindness and generosity is overwhelming. We at CEF are very lucky to have such good caring people help girls to stay in school here in Vietnam.

 With her dad
 With her dad and sister
 Her granny who helped bring her up from when she was one year old. 
Unfortunately granny is frail now and can't even look after herself., 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Good hearts result in less suffering in the world

CEF is blessed to have many wonderful caring people involved; our board, donors, partner organizations, sponsors and staff all make our work possible.

Today the staff had been discussing one family they are very worried about as this family is already financially challenged and their situation has deteriorated. The father is semi-paralyzed, mum has poor health, one of their children has Down's Syndrome, and now one of the older girls in the family who worked and financially helped them scrape by, has now married and moved to live with her husband's family far away. The mum and dad of the sponsored child who were already very skinny, have become even more so.

The staff almost never ask for more help for a family, but the visit to this family distressed them. I don't like to ask sponsors for extra help either, as they are already sponsoring. But today they did ask me, and I did ask her sponsor who responded with such a big heart and care it was very touching.

I feel so blessed to have such caring staff and such caring sponsors. It makes it possible to provide the care our CEF families need and reduces their suffering.