Thursday, July 23, 2020

Reflections on working with ethnic students in Phuoc Son ~ Guest blog by CEF's Thuy Dinh

Working with ethnic minority girls to help them with their education is really challenging for us. At first, communication is always difficult because they have their own language and have to learn Vietnamese at school when they are young children but this does not mean they can understand all of the Vietnamese vocabulary, so we have to use basic words to talk with them and exchange information. Sadly in some cases we are unable to help them because we cannot communicate with them sufficiently or because they are hesitant to talk with us.

Secondly, helping them with careers advice is also another challenge because there are not many job opportunities for them after high school graduation to match their abilities. To be honest, I have become more patient since I started working with them. I learned not to always expect too much from them or for them to have good school results. Over the two years that I have been working on this project, I can see the progress they have made, although it’s sometimes slow. I smile to myself as it makes me happy to see this progress.

Previously, the majority of the young ethnic generation dropped out of school before completing high school due to poverty, pregnancy, or child marriage, then did farming like their parents. This kept the poverty cycle going, but now it is gradually changing. So far this year, most CEF scholarship students want to take a vocational training course to be a tailor, a hairdresser, a baker, a bartender, a waitress or work in a factory to earn money and support their family. I think at least they have started to change their mind about what is possible and dream of a brighter future.

(Staff photos)

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Hoi An and some of our CEF students

Hoi An is an old trading town, and once the largest port in South East Asia, but that was a long time ago. It has been a popular tourist town for the last twenty years. Our NGO is based on the outskirts and some of our CEF students reside on the outskirts too.

It looks like an affluent town with it's lovely homes, it's tempting shops and restaurants, but there still is a lot of poverty here.

I share here a few summaries of situations of a few of the local children. Tien's parents and grandparents have all died. Her sister who is a young mother with a very low income is responsible for her. She can just about feed Tien, but needs help with that and needs us to cover Tien's education costs. 

One family we help has three young children who mum is trying to support on her own as dad died fairly recently. Mum is creative and finds ways to earn small amounts, but with reduced domestic tourism her income is way down. CEF helps with education and food costs.

Another sweet child in our sponsorship program is an orphan cared for by her grandparents and her extended family. One of her aunts who is dying from cancer is under granny and grandad's care too. The main person earning is granddad who is a fisherman. He says that the area has been overfished and they have to go further out to see to find fish. So his income from fishing is down.

Linh is a young girl living with granny. Dad has vanished and doesn't care and mum has died. Granny has no income except help she receives from a son depending on how much he earns. Another is an orphan who is cared for by granny and aunty. Neither have an income except from any family who can contribute. Both these girls have sponsorships. 

One student's brother was a gambler and gambled so much mum had to sell the family home. Fortunately they had a little left, and could get a loan to buy a tiny piece of land and build a small home in an abjacent district, but now they have no friends there, a large debt which they can't pay off, and it takes her 45 minutes to get to school now.  As she has lessons at night after school has finished she has to stay in town and eat at a friends home as her's is too far to come and go from in the day.

Another girl in the sponsorship program has parents but mum is dying of cancer and so the only income is from rice they sell and dad giving tourists rides on their buffalo, but with no tourists there is not income besides from the rice.

Their situations sound depressing and they are very challening ones. But they smile effortlessly when we see them, they are able to laugh and joke besides sharing their challenges. It rarely is depressing as they all have hope and they all have help and care from CEF to keep their daughters and granddaughters in school.