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)