Saturday, April 30, 2016

Rice ~ Guest blog by Graeme, CEF's Manager in Australia who is visiting Vietnam

It’s harvest time in central Viet Nam and the heads of the rice plants are bent over in the paddy fields heavy with their grains. 

Once harvested the rice has to be thoroughly dried. What better place than a hot black road surface?

And it needs to be regularly turned over too. Feet are a good way of doing this.

And if the whole road is taken up with drying rice it’s fine to ride over it.

In Hoi An you’ll find rice paddies between houses, shops and hotels. 

And even the dead get a rice view.

Rice has an important place in the hearts of the Vietnamese. You can call the family to lunch by calling, ‘An com!’ ‘Eat rice.’ Many of the families CEF helps count on a good harvest to feed themselves.  If they have no land, they have to pay for land rental and fertilisers. If the harvest is poor then the debt is paid off the following year, with rice. Hopefully that year is a good one enabling them to make the repayment.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Living on the Edge ~ Guest blog by Graeme, CEF's Manager in Australia who is visiting Vietnam

Last weekend we visited families who live in the mountainous part of Quang Nam province in central Vietnam. Talking with several mothers and fathers we got a glimpse of how a good harvest one year helps them get a little ahead and then a poor one the next soon puts them  back into debt, a state that most of our families are very familiar with. One mother explained how the harvest last year had produced 350 kilos of rice. She got to keep 100kg after paying for the rent of the land to grow the rice on, fertiliser and wages at harvest time.

This year the harvest was poor. Low rainfall meant there was not enough water in the irrigation ditches for her to divert into the paddy field.  She produced 100kg and so didn’t have any surplus to pay for her costs. She had to keep the 100kg to feed her family and chalked up a debt to be repaid from next year’s harvest, if  the rains are good enough. You’d never have known the stress she was under, so cheerful were she and her young daughter.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Why I personally think education is important for a girl ~ Guest blog by CEF's Ms Ngoc

Nowadays, more and more people acknowledge the importance of education, especially for girls. Personally, I think it is significant for girls to have a full education. The more girls who have a good education, the more benefits they have and society receives.

First of all, the girls themselves benefit personally from being well educated. They have more knowledge which provides them with better choices in the future, such as being able to find good jobs after graduation. They are then able to support themselves and their family and have respected positions in society. Besides this, being well educated, they can protect themselves against trafficking and abuse. Girls are vulnerable to traffickers and a full education helps them to understand the dangers and develop skills to avoid them. In addition, they are willing and confident enough to stand up for their rights when faced with violence or sexual abuse. One more important point is that they know how to have safe sex which helps them avoid sexual diseases.

Secondly, if girls are educated, society will gain many advantages. A country which has a large number of educated girls will develop quickly and easily and be able to reduce poverty rates. Educated girls can go into business, earn their own income and make a meaningful contribution to society. Education also helps reduce the number of girls who marry young,  because they know when they are ready for marriage. They can make their own decisions.

 Unfortunately young uneducated girls often marry badly and become mothers at a very young age

In my opinion, education is the key for girls to have the best life. I have seen many cases in which girls have to suffer in terrible situations and 90% of them are uneducated. Therefore, girls should have education to have a better life, protect themselves and bring benefit to society.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Helping CEF children choose a suitable subject to study at university ~ Guest blog by CEF's Ms Kim Chi

Part of CEF’s mentoring program is helping CEF students choose a suitable subject to study at university. We consider it very important to help our high school students with this. They will have a better life in the future after graduation if they choose a suitable subject and have a passion for it.

There are not many students who understand their abilities. We have seen some of the students we helped early on choose badly and then they had regrets after completing their course and some ended up without employment in the field they studied. This is one of the major reasons we started the mentoring program.  Although some of them know that there are many ways to get a job besides getting a university education, they unfortunately are not enthusiastic about applying for vocational training which can result in them being very employable.

To help us to see what is suitable for them we collect their school results from all their high school years and see which subjects they have been consistently good at. We also spend more time with the grade 12 students than with the younger children when we do home visits. We talk about their plans for university and what they are truly fond of. Based on their ideas, any passions they have, our life experience and the research on the internet we do, we then can consider what the most suitable subjects for them are, and where is the best place for them to study. Some dream of university but they will need to do vocational training instead due to their poor standard at school.  After much consideration we call them up and talk to them about realistic careers.  If they have no ideas of their own, which is frequently the case, we give them some ideas of suitable careers for them to consider.

At present, we are developing and adding ‘Career Development’ to the mentoring program, to provide more information and ideas for them to consider including many interesting vocational training courses.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Why I think CEF's 'Water Safety Day' is important ~ Guest blog by CEF staff Ms Thuy

Every year CEF celebrates ‘Water Safety Day’ for all children in our Education Sponsorship Program. Most of our children are from the mountainous areas and don’t have much chance to go to the beach. Therefore, they are very excited and want to join in on this day very much. Just a few of the CEF children know how to swim, so this is a day the children can learn how to swim, but also learn how to be safe in water as well as have the knowledge about how to help people in the water.

In Vietnam, we not only have a long coast but also many rivers and ponds. Most of the Vietnamese children love to go to be by the water in the summer to relax in the cool water. However, the problem is that not many of them know how to swim.

According to the World Health Organization’s survey, there are 32 children in Vietnam who die from drowning every day! Vietnam’s rate of child drowning deaths is one of the highest in Asia. Last week, nine grade 6 students drowned while swimming in Tra Khuc river, in Quang Ngai province.
This incident has made people wake up and realize the importance of everyone having swimming skills. This occurrence makes everyone want to do something to make their children safe. The rich parents can afford to take their children to swimming centers after their children’s school day. But the poor parents have a different solution which is to not allow their children to go to the beach or to a river. However, it is not a good solution because children don’t always do what their parents ask them to do. It’s very important for all children to learn how to swim.

Some schools now are including swimming lessons in their school program and organizations are teaching children at schools for free and NGO’s like ours have days at the beach to teach water safety, floating and swimming. The change needs to happen faster though as 32 child deaths a day in Vietnam is tragic.

(Photos - first two by Etienne and others by Linda)

Monday, April 11, 2016

Choice ~ Guest blog by Graeme, CEF's manager in Australia

Last year CEF began a scholarship program to help young women in years 10, 11 and 12, mostly from minority tribe backgrounds, complete high school.  A few of these young women are talented students, top of class and often of their year, and are more than capable of going to university. However, some of them may not be able to take up an opportunity to continue their education at the tertiary level .

How could this be? CEF has a new scholarship fund which will support them. One of our staff will mentor them through their studies. All the signs are that they will graduate and be able to contribute greatly to their families and communities, as well as becoming role models for other girls.

It seems that the answer mostly lies in deeply held views in Vietnamese and ethnic minority tribe cultures which see women as having a different role to play in the family and in their communities once they have completed their school education. This means that for a young woman to be absent from the home at the age when she can contribute so much to her family, for example by helping in the home and by bringing in much needed extra income, there would have to be a compelling reason to allow her to continue on to university.

In this school year, which finishes in June 2016, with the help of the school, we have identified five young women who have excellent school results and who would qualify to study at university. These girls are all from the poorest families some living in quite remote areas in the hills along the Vietnamese Laos border. As far as we know no women from this school from a similar background have gone on to university. if any of them do they would be breaking new ground. I say if, because we already have evidence that the fathers or mothers of some of the girls will not agree to them going to university. Citing the important role they play in the family, circumstances where there is only one parent and other reasons it seems likely that these five university scholarships will not all be taken up.

However, some young women are very determined and find a way to make their aspiration to continue their studies come true. I’ll write about one such young woman in my next blog. 

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Some parents won't allow their daughters to have a tertiary education ~ Guest blog by CEF's Ms Kim Chi

CEF's Ms Kim Chi writes about the challenge in getting parents to allow their daughters to have a tertiary education:

Education is very important but not many countryside parents really understand that; especially in the North of Viet Nam which is one of the areas in which CEF is working.

Most of the families in this area are Catholic and there is deep discrimination between boys and girls. It is quite hard for us to persuade the parents, particularly fathers, to let the girls go to university although they are very good students and capable of being easily accepted into university.

Because of their poverty and their large families, the girls have to stop school to work and help the family in order that the boys can continue going to school and get a tertiary education. It is extremely unfair on the girls.

I was really shocked when I saw that many girls there had to work in factories and were paid very low wages because they were uneducated. Other girls who have stopped school prematurely do farming and then also are under pressure to get married at a young age.

One of CEF's girls who is an excellent high school student and wants to be a doctor after university is still struggling to persuade her father to give his permission in order that she can get a tertiary education. Her father told her she should quit her education straight after graduating high school and work to support her parents and help her brothers go to school.

Her dream will be stopped if she isn't determined to work even harder in grade 12 and have excellent results in her final high school exams and university entrance exams.

Of course, CEF will help the girls who are wonderful students and have a passionate interest in receiving a tertiary education. These excellent students can be a shining example to others in their conservative communities if they can receive a tertiary education and receive good jobs and incomes after graduation. Hopefully these girls will help the parents believe in the power of education.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Translation of a letter of a CEF child to her sponsor ~ Guest blog by CEF's Ms Kim Chi

An interesting and sweet letter by one of our CEF students to her sponsor. Translated by CEF's Ms Kim Chi:

Firstly, I wish you and your family happiness and good health. I am writing this letter to tell you about my Tet.

This Tet, my house was more beautiful than the last Tet. We cleaned the house and garden some days before Tet and my sister scolded me a lot because I was too lazy. My sister and I also repainted all the doors. We looked very dirty but we were very happy when we saw our house looking refreshed.
It was cold at Tet so I didn’t go out much. On the first day of Tet, I just visited my grandparents’ grave and put incense on it for them. My mother bought enough food and things for Tet, so Tet was so blessed.

Unfortunately, I didn’t see any fireworks. I tried to go to bed late so I could see the fireworks on New Year Eve, but I was very sleepy and missed them by 5 minutes. What a pity!

This year, I got a lot of lucky envelopes with money in them and I spent it on my breakfasts so I didn’t need to ask my mother to give me money. This Tet, my mother was well and she also wore nice clothes and went out with my aunt. She looked nicer as she took more care of herself and it made me happy because my mother worked really hard the whole year. It was great that she got to go out at Tet.

My sister is still well, and she is looking for a new job. She used to wake up early when she had a job but she’s got lazy which makes my mother angry.

My uncle is the same as usual, I felt sorry for him as he couldn’t have a nice Tet like others.

It was lucky for me as my birthday was at Tet, so many friends came to celebrate my birthday with me. This is my best birthday ever so I was very delighted. I got a lot of gifts but my favorite one was a gorgeous necklace from my sister. Everyone loved it but I thought I was more beautiful when I had it on. I was very confident about myself, wasn’t I? I was very excited because everyone told me I looked prettier after Tet.

My friends were full of life. We went around the town and played many games in the fair. This was my best Tet yet.

I must stop now. I wish you and your family a great year too. Thank you so much for your help.

*Note: Her uncle is severely mentally ill.

Monday, April 4, 2016

CEF's Ms Ngoc writes about one of our tertiary students with pride

This is about a CEF sponsored girl that I have known for over 3 years and she is a young lady I really admire. Being born into a very poor family and suffering from the most severe emotional trauma, she has been able to overcome them and become a wonderful girl with a good education.

It was the unexpected suicide of her parents that put her into a most challenged and sad period and in that time she was very reserved, shy and did not communicate with others. Now she already has come out of her shell, has gradually gotten over her difficulties, and now enjoys her life more.

She has a passion for art and is pursuing her dream. However, when she was in grade 12, her uncle who partly supported her family and her siblings did not allow her to study art because he felt it would be hard for her to find a job later. He asked her to apply to be a kindergarten teacher; however, she was not keen on studying this. She talked to her grandparents and her uncle a lot. She tried to persuade them to give her permission to study art. It was 4 or 5 months that she kept trying to convince them and at the last minute, she was successful. They let her do what she wanted.

She passed the entrance exam and she has been studying a 3 year art course to become an art teacher. This is her last year at college and she has just finished her internship as an art teacher at a secondary school. She intends to find a job in her hometown then she will be able to live near her family.

Seeing her in her elegant 'ao dai' and going to school to teach her students I felt very proud of her although it was just her internship. She puts all her efforts into making her dream come true. I hope all of our children can see her as a good example in order to dream and pursue their dreams.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

A touching letter by one of our CEF students ~ Translated by CEF's Ms Thuy

My name is 'T' and I am in grade 12. I felt very lucky and happy when receiving your scholarship. To me, it not only helps me in day-to-day life but also gives me courage to overcome difficulties and challenges in my life.

My mother died of cancer when I was in grade 11. Her four - year treatment was actually a difficult time for my family. When discovering my mother’s illness, my father took my mum to many hospitals for treatment. The amount of money that my parents had saved wasn’t enough for medical bills, so my dad had to borrow money from our relatives and friends.  After the first 2 years of treatment, my mother’s health was worse and at the same time, my mother realized that she was 4 months pregnant. My dad continued taking my mother to many hospitals and found many Occidental and Oriental medicines; however, my mother couldn’t recover. My mother passed away when my youngest brother was just 2 month old. The death of my mother was a great loss and pain for my family, especially for me.

Since that time, my family has faced many difficulties continuously. My younger brother was so young and didn’t have mother’s milk; he had to have formula milk. At that time, I was a student at high school and my eldest sister was at university. My dad had to work, so we had to hire a baby sister to look after my little brother.

Although my father has arthritis, he still has to work very hard to look after the whole family. His salary is just enough for my younger brother‘s expenditure.  Sometimes, thinking about the difficulties and pressure in my life, I used to feel powerless and tired as well, as well. Fortunately, thanks to the support and encouragement of people around me, and your education scholarship, I feel the caring and the sharing of many good people. It makes me stronger and able to keep going. Your scholarship was very meaningful to me and my family as it reduced our financial pressure a lot and pushed me to work harder.

I’d also like to share with you my good news at school. In the first semester, I was the best grade 12 student in the whole school. I also won the ‘Consolation prize’ in the Provincial advanced chemistry competition.

Lastly, I would like to give grateful thanks to you. I will try my best to improve my studies more. I wish you good health, happiness and success. I hope CEF can continue to help more poor and good student.